The Pebble Partnership started the year with three big objectives: Make the Environmental Protection Agency back down from its pre-emptive sanctions against the proposed mine; bring in a major partner; and start the environmental permitting and review process known as NEPA — the National Environmental Policy Act.
The company completed the first item on its checklist by May and with just five weeks to go in the year, it’s looking at a big month of activity for a mine that doesn’t exist, but is a household word in Alaska.
Word has it that final arrangements are being made to bring in that major partner, although the details on that are still under wraps, and the first permit applications will be filed within a couple of weeks.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is the lead agency to write an Environmental Impact Statement for the mine, the plans of which have been drastically scaled back from the original concept. The planned mine footprint is 50 percent smaller and has been designed to minimize the impact to the environment, the company says.
The review process is likely to take several years due to the approximately 60 permits that would be required. Beyond that, construction could take up to five years for a mine that could remain in production for 20 years or longer.
SINCE THE SETTLEMENT
- On May 11, 2017, EPA settled litigation brought by the Pebble Limited Partnership. The settlement allows the company the chance to apply for a Clean Water Act permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, before EPA may advance its own Clean Water Act process that would put sideboards on how the mine would dispose of rock and gravel.
- On Oct. 5, the company announced it has a new and smaller plan for the mine, located in Western Alaska.
- In October, the Pebble Partnership promoted Stephen Hodgson as senior vice president of engineering and project director, and James Fueg as vice president of permitting.
- Hodgson led the engineering group at Northern Dynasty and played a central role on the engineering team for Pebble for more than a decade.
- Fueg is an Alaskan, geologist, and a geophysicist with more than 25 years of experience in mineral exploration and resource development.
- Also in October, Gov. Bill Walker expressed his opposition to the Pebble Mine: “I am not supportive of the Pebble Mine,” Walker told Alaska Public Media.
- In November, Pebble announced the addition to its staff of Mark Hamilton as executive vice president of external affairs. Hamilton is the former president of the University of Alaska and had a 31-year career in the U.S. Army, rising to the rank of Major General.