In this July 13, 2007, file photo, workers with the Pebble Mine project test drill in the Bristol Bay region of Alaska, near the village of Iliamma. (AP Photo / Al Grillo)

In this July 13, 2007, file photo, workers with the Pebble Mine project test drill in the Bristol Bay region of Alaska, near the village of Iliamma. (AP Photo / Al Grillo)

Corps: Pebble Mine appeal review could take over a year

The proposed mine has been the subject of heated debate for years.

By BECKY BOHRER

Associated Press

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Thursday it could take more than a year to weigh an appeal by a developer seeking to build a copper and gold mine in a region that supports the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery.

The corps’ Pacific Ocean Division in Hawaii is handling the appeal by the Pebble Limited Partnership, which was denied approval of a key permit for the project in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region by the corps’ Alaska District.

A November decision signed by the district commander determined the proposed Pebble mine was “contrary to the public interest.”

The Pebble partnership in January filed an appeal request.

[Two Pebble appeals, two different outcomes]

But the corps’ Pacific Ocean Division indicated Thursday that the administrative record in the case had just been received from the Alaska District. The record contains documents surrounding the permit decision that will be considered in deciding on the appeal, the statement from the Pacific division said.

The statement said the “volume and complexity of the information to consider for this particular appeal far surpasses that of an average appeal.” The national average over the past decade for completing a regulatory review is about a year, but in this case, the process is expected to take longer, the statement said.

“The Pacific Ocean Division remains committed to maintaining an administrative appeal process that is independent, objective, fair and efficient,” according to the statement.

Luciano Vera, a spokesperson for the corps’ Pacific Ocean Division, said the appeal in this case was made to a level above the Alaska District, which is why the division is handling the matter.

If the appeal is deemed to have merit, the matter would be sent back to the Alaska District for reconsideration, which could result in the same decision or a different decision on the permit application, Vera said by email. If the appeal is deemed to be without merit, the original permit decision would stand, the email says.

Mike Heatwole, a Pebble spokesperson, said the schedule is up to the corps, “and we will work with them as they advance the appeal.”

The proposed mine has been the subject of heated debate for years.

During the Obama administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed, but never finalized, restrictions on development in the Bristol Bay region. The agency in 2019, during the Trump administration, withdrew the proposal, calling it outdated and preemptively issued.

Leaders of the Pebble partnership had seen as favorable to the project an environmental review from the corps that was released several months before the November rejection.

The corps, in that review, stated that under normal operations, the alternatives it looked at “would not be expected to have a measurable effect on fish numbers and result in long-term changes to the health of the commercial fisheries in Bristol Bay.”

John Shively, CEO of the Pebble partnership, said the conclusions reached in the November decision were not supported by the environmental review.

Joe Biden, as a candidate for president last year, said if elected, he would work to stop the project. Former President Donald Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., was among those who also spoke in opposition last year to the project.

Pebble opponents have said they want permanent measures implemented that would make the Bristol Bay region off limits to large-scale mining.

More in News

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Aurora forecast for the week of Feb. 26

These forecasts are courtesy of the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute… Continue reading

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Alexei Painter, director of Alaska’s Legislative Finance Division, presents an update of the state’s budget situation for the coming year to the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Analysis: Balanced state budget next year can include a $1,535 PFD and $680 BSA increase

However, a “statutory” $3,688 PFD would result in a deficit of more than $1.2 billion, report says.

The Alaska State Board of Education and Early Development at its meeting Wednesday in Juneau. (Claire Stremple/Alaska Beacon)
Alaska’s education board sends a $500M wish list for construction and maintenance to lawmakers

The state’s Board of Education and Early Development approved a priority list… Continue reading

Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities Commissioner Ryan Anderson answers questions from state senators during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Wednesday. (Mark Sabbatini/Juneau Empire)
State officials working to meet Friday deadline for revised transportation plan

The federal government rejected the plan on Feb. 9, citing numerous deficiencies

(Getty Images)
Alaska Republicans head to the polls Tuesday with Trump, Haley and Ramaswamy on the ballot

On Super Tuesday, March 5, Alaska Republicans will join their counterparts in… Continue reading

Rep. Kevin McCabe, R-Big Lake, speaks March 20, 2023, on the floor of the Alaska House. (Photo by James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Proposal to define a fetus as a person in Alaska’s criminal code faces pushback

Opponents testified that the bill would threaten Alaskans’ abortion rights

Rep. Justin Ruffridge, R-Soldotna, speaks Monday, May 8, 2023, on the floor of the Alaska House. (Photo by James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Alaska House approves bigger merit scholarship for in-state high school students

The Alaska House of Representatives voted on Monday without opposition to raise… Continue reading

Most Read