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)

Dunleavy: State will appeal Pebble decision

Gov: Army Corps decision has far-reaching implications

The state of Alaska will appeal an Army Corp of Engineers decision not to issue a permit for the proposed gold and copper mine near Bristol Bay, Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s office announced Friday afternoon.

“The flawed decision by the Alaska District creates a dangerous precedent that will undoubtedly harm Alaska’s future and, any potential project can fall victim to the same questionable standards,” Dunleavy said in a statement. “The decision has far-reaching and ominous implications for our rights as a state to develop our resources for the benefit of all Alaskans, whether it’s mineral deposits like Pebble, or oil and gas on the North Slope.”

Permits for the long-contested mine were denied in November with the Corps saying the mine was “contrary to the public interest,” according to the Associated Press. The mine’s proposed location is close to headwaters for the Bristol Bay region, the largest sockeye salmon fishery in the world and an economic driver for the state, and fishermen and conservationists have long opposed the mine.

[Executive leaves Pebble amid recorded comment fallout]

The permit denial came months after an investigative reporting group published videos of corporate executives behind the project boasting about their close relationships with Alaska politicians, including Dunleavy, and claiming the company’s plans for the mine were beyond what they had told the public.

In December 2019, CNN published an article alleging Dunleavy had been coached by representatives of Pebble Limited Partnership, the company behind the project, and published two near-identical letters; one a draft letter from Pebble to Dunleavy’s office, the other an official letter from Dunleavy to the Army Corps. The governor’s office said at the time it was normal for an administration to request briefing materials on specific projects.

“The Alaska Constitution specifically directs us to develop our resources in the public interest,” Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Corri Feige said in a statement. “When a federal agency arbitrarily tries to deprive us of our rights with the stroke of a bureaucrat’s pen, we simply must challenge that action.”

President-elect Joe Biden said in August he would oppose the Pebble Mine if elected. It was under the Obama-Biden administration that an Environmental Protection Agency ruling had initially prevented the mine from moving forward.

Donald Trump Jr., President Donald Trump’s eldest son, is also among the mine’s critics.

Earlier this month, a group of investors sued Pebble Limited Partnership after stock values dropped 85% over the summer, AP reported.

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at psegall@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnuEmpire.

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