Conservationists move to permanently protect areas around proposed Alaskan mine

Handout photo of a view of the Upper Tularik Floodplain in the Bristol Bay watershed in Alaska
The Upper Tularik Floodplain in the Bristol Bay watershed in Alaska is seen in an undated handout picture provided by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Courtesy of Environmental Protection Agency/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS.IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS

Dec 22 (Reuters) - The United States' top environmental non-profit and a regional land trust have raised $20 million to permanently protect 44,000 acres at an Alaskan watershed, that could be another major roadblock for a controversial proposed mine.

The proposed Pebble Mine, being developed by a unit of Canada-based Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd (NDM.TO), has been through a roller coaster of regulations for the past 15 years.

The Conservation Fund and Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust said on Thursday they hit the goal of their fundraiser announced over a year ago, after Pedro Bay Corp, an Alaska Native village corporation, voted to let the Fund buy three conservation easements.

The purchase will protect the land and water habitat northeast of Iliamna Lake of the Bristol Bay region, home to important salmon species including the world's largest sockeye salmon fisheries that have supported critical wildlife and a multibillion-dollar industry.

"Notably, this effort will restrict development of an access road critical for the proposed Pebble Mine," said the Fund's spokesperson, Valerie Keefer.

"We respect the rights of Alaska Native corporation shareholders to make decisions about what to do on their lands and hope the Biden administration will do the same for other Alaska Native corporation shareholders who may have differing views about what they would like do on their lands, especially regarding the Pebble Project," said Mike Heatwole, a spokesperson for Northern Dynasty Minerals' unit.

Earlier in December, the regional Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head suggested that the agency veto the project. read more

The fundraiser counted Patagonia's Holdfast Collective among its donors, along with The Wyss Foundation and Alaska Venture Fund.

Reporting by Sourasis Bose, Ruhi Soni and Arshreet Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber

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