A decision by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to deny a critical permit for the proposed Pebble mine in Southwest Alaska is being challenged by the Dunleavy administration, which says that decision has far reaching implications for development of the state’s resources.
“The flawed decision by the Alaska District (of the USACE) creates a dangerous precedent that will undoubtedly harm Alaska’s future and any potential project can fall victim to the same questionable standards,” said Gov. Mike Dunleavy, who plans to appeal that decision.
According to Alaska Commissioner of Natural Resources Corri Feige the USACE decision has far-reaching and ominous implications for mineral deposits, oil and gas and extraction of other natural resources that the Alaska Constitution directs the state to develop in the public interest.
The permit denied by the Corps is a federal Clean Water Act permit, a decision made after the Corps determined that the mine would not comply with requirements of the Clean Water Act.
The governor’s decision to appeal the Corps decision drew criticism from opponents of the mine, who have argued for years that the mine plans presented by the Pebble Limited Partnership, a subsidiary of a Canadian mining firm based in Vancouver, British Columbia, threatened the Bristol Bay sockeye salmon fishery, a multi-million-dollar fishery with thousands of harvesters on a commercial, sport and subsistence level. The fishery also provides sustenance for area wildlife, from eagles to bears in the Bristol Bay area.
“Bristol Bay residents and Alaskans have been clear that we will not trade one of the world’s last robust salmon fisheries for a gold mine, and the Army Corps decision affirmed that this toxic project is too risky for our home and does not serve the public interest,” said Lindsay Layland, deputy director of United Tribes of Bristol Bay. Layland said she found it outrageous that the Dunleavy administration “would go against the will of Alaskans to benefit a foreign mining company that has no value to our state and shows once again how out of touch he (Dunleavy) is.”
“It doesn’t surprise me that Dunleavy is appealing the ruling,” said Robin Samuelsen,” a veteran Bristol Bay harvester of over 50 years, and chairman of the board of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp. “Ever since he became governor, he has done nothing but lie to the people of Bristol Bay.”
Samuelsen praised Senators Lia Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, both R-Alaska, for coming out against the mine, along with thousands of people nationwide, but added that Dunleavy “is not listening to us.”
The nonprofit environmental entities SalmonState and Trout Unlimited also criticized the state’s decision to challenge the Corps denial of the permit for the mine.
“Science prevailed when the Corps rejected the proposed Clean Water Act permit but the governor has chosen to ignore scientific fact,” said Tim Bristol, executive director of SalmonState. “The only way to stop this toxic project for good is with an EPA veto.”
“The science is clear that the proposed Pebble mine will cause permanent and catastrophic harm to Bristol Bay’s waters and fisheries,” said Neili Williams, Alaska director of Trout Unlimited. “Alaskans have made clear that developing the Pebble deposit is a risk they’re unwilling to take.”