Get moving on Pebble Project permitting, mining plan! - Murkowski
U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski urged the Pebble Partnership to set a timeline and stick with it for the benefit of Alaskans waiting nearly a decade for the massive copper-gold project.
Posted: Tuesday , 09 Jul 2013
RENO (MINEWEB) -
The Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, has urged the Pebble Partnership to release their mining plan for development of the Pebble copper-gold deposit in Southwest Alaska.
In a July 1st letter to Pebble Limited Partnership (PLP) CEO John Shivley, Anglo American CEO Mark Cutifani, and Northern Dynasty Minerals CEO Ron Thiessen, Murkowski said the partnership’s delay in describing the project and submitting permit applications has caused confusion and anxiety among Alaskans about the proposed mine, as well as allowed federal regulators to further muddy the water with several hypothetical mine scenarios.
Northern Dynasty and Anglo American are 50-50 partners in the massive project.
Murkowski said the partnership’s “failure to describe the project and submit permit applications” has deprived “relevant government agencies and all stakeholders of the specifics needed to make informed decisions.”
In her letter to the mining CEOs, Murkowski observed that Northern Dynasty asserted “at least as far back as Nov. 3, 2004” that submission of permit applications was imminent. By Aug. 12, 2005, another statement was issued, claiming that “a full permitting process for a port, access road and open pit mine [were] all slated to begin in 2006.”
Murkowski went on to cite other examples of news releases which claimed a proposed development plan would be finalized in 2009, and permits would be applied for in 2010. By 2010, Alaskans were told project permitting would be initiated in 2011. By May 2011, Alaskans were told the project would enter the permitting phase at the end of 2012.
On June of this year, a partnership representative indicated that the partnership hoped to have a project to take into permitting this year. A frustrated Murkowski observed Monday, “Yet today, after years of waiting, it is anxiety, frustration, and confusion that have become the norm in many communities – rather than optimism about the new economic opportunities that responsible development of the Pebble deposit might be able to deliver."
The senator noted she has opposed the prospect of a pre-emptive veto of development of the project by the Environmental Protection Agency under Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act, an action she asserted “would be purely based on speculation and conjecture.”
“As you know, I have been highly critical of EPA and protective of the due process that any entity considering investment in Alaska should be provided,” Murkowski said. “But your own actions have created uncertainty among the people I respect, and the time has come to tell Alaskans whether and how you plan to proceed.”
“By failing to take the next step – by failing to decide whether to formally describe the project and seek permits for it – PLP has created a vacuum that EPA has now filled with not one, not two, but three hypothetical mine scenarios contained in its so-called Watershed Amendment.”
“So I have a simple request: please establish a timeline and adhere to it. Clarity and certainty over how you intend to proceed is in the best interest of all who are involve with – and all who could be affected by – development of the Pebble deposit,” Murkowski stressed.
Thus far, the PLP has published that the Pebble deposit contains measured and indicated resources of 55 billion pounds of copper, 67 million ounces of gold, and 3.3 billion pounds of molybdenum. It will mine 678 million pounds of copper, 673,000 gold ounces, 32 million ounces of moly, and three million ounces of silver annually.
Eleven federal and state agencies will be involved in its permitting in 67 permit categories. The mine is expected to generate 3,000 jobs in Alaska and 15,000 nationally. Pebble is expected to increase U.S. copper production by 20%.
Total initial capital costs for the project are now estimated at US$4.7 billion. Pebble is supposed to achieve commercial production by 2021 with project construction expected to commence in 2017. Mine life is initially estimated to be 45 years.
Scientific data collection for fisheries and other potential environmental and socioeconomic impacts of the project has been ongoing since 2004. Earlier this year a major study of Pebble’s potential economic impacts was released by the PLP. However, project opponents remain strongly concerned about the potential impacts the project may have on the world class Bristol Bay salmon fishery, as well as indigenous communities in the area.