US asks Northern Dynasty for mitigation plan for Pebble mine

Drilling at the Pebble copper-gold project in Alaska. (Image courtesy of Northern Dynasty Minerals.)

The US Army Corps of Engineers has ordered Northern Dynasty Minerals (TSX: NDM) to craft a plan that would mitigate the environmental impacts of the controversial Pebble copper-gold-molybdenum mine in Alaska.

In a letter dated Aug. 20 to the project’s developer, Pebble Limited Partnership, the body said that “mitigation is required for unavoidable adverse impacts to aquatic resources” the project could bring.

The document marks a surprise reversal from the Corps’ July decision. The regulator cleared at the time the last environmental hurdle for the proposed Pebble mine.

The US Army Corps of Engineers has told the project’s developer, Pebble Limited Partnership, that “mitigation is required for unavoidable adverse impacts to aquatic resources” the mine could bring.

The approval of the final environmental impact statement (EIS) for the project was supposed to put an end to almost two-decade long permitting process.

The mine only needed the federal nod to go ahead. Doubts around what many considered a done-deal, however, surged in early August, with President Donald Trump pledging to hear out “both sides of the issue”.

The unexpected statement followed his son Donald Jr. tweeting he opposed the project supported by his father’s administration.

The Corps’ order issued today comes on the heels of a report by Politico over the weekend, stating that the Trump administration intended to block the controversial and long-dragged project.

The Vancouver-based miner denied the report, saying that the message pushed by the media outlet was “clearly” an error.

“It was likely made by a rush to publish rather than doing the necessary diligence to track down the full story,” the company said.

Pebble mine would be built in the salmon-rich Bristol Bay area, about 200 miles southwest of Anchorage. This has triggered opposition from conservationists and local indigenous communities, who claim the mine would cause irreparable damage to the environment and the salmon-based economy.

Disproving critics

Northern Dynasty said in early August that it supported calls for an independent review of the project’s EIS to be undertaken by relevant inspectors general of the US Army, the US Defense Department and the USACE.

The measure, which sought to disprove critics of the development, was followed on Monday by an advertising and outreach campaign to push for the approval of Pebble.

Northern Dynasty said the move targeted “the Trump Administration, the Republican Party, its delegates and influencers.”

It also noted that the USACE’s fresh request did not constitute a “delay or pause” in the permitting process.

Shares in the company collapsed on the news. They fell as much as 47% in Toronto in early morning and were trading 34% lower to C$1.27 each at noon.

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