Pebble Mine

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Pebble Mine
Pebble Mine is located in Alaska
Pebble Mine
Pebble Mine
Location of the Pebble prospect in Alaska
Coordinates: 59°53′50″N 155°17′43″W / 59.89722°N 155.29528°W / 59.89722; -155.29528
PEBBLE MINE Latitude and Longitude:

59°53′50″N 155°17′43″W / 59.89722°N 155.29528°W / 59.89722; -155.29528
Countries United States
State Alaska
Borough Lake and Peninsula
Time zone Alaska (AKST) ( UTC-9)
 • Summer ( DST) AKDT ( UTC-8)
Area code(s) 907
Exploration drill rig at the prospective site of the Pebble Mine

Pebble Mine is the common name of a mineral exploration project investigating a very large porphyry copper, gold, and molybdenum mineral deposit in the Bristol Bay region of Southwest Alaska, near Lake Iliamna and Lake Clark. The proposal to mine the ore deposit, using large-scale operations and infrastructure, is controversial. Proponents argue that the mine will create jobs, provide tax revenue to the state of Alaska, and reduce American dependence on foreign sources of raw materials. Opponents argue that the mine would adversely affect the entire Bristol Bay watershed; and that the possible consequences to fish populations, when mining effluents escape planned containments, are simply too great of a risk. Much of this debate concerns the tentative plan to impound large amounts of water, waste rock, and mine tailings behind several earthen dams at the mine site. The project is on hold after the loss of funding partners in 2013. [1]



The Pebble prospect is in a remote, wild, and generally uninhabited part of the Bristol Bay watershed. The nearest communities, about 20 miles (32 km) distant, are the villages of Nondalton, Newhalen, and Iliamna. The site is 200 miles (320 km) southwest of Anchorage, Alaska. [2]

Pebble is approximately 15 miles (24 km) north of, and upstream of, Lake Iliamna. The deposit area is characterized by relatively flat land dotted by glacial ponds, interspersed with isolated mountains or ranges of hills rising one or two thousand feet above the flats. Pebble is under a broad flat valley at about 1,000 feet (300 m) above sea level dividing the drainages of Upper Talarik Creek and the Koktuli River. [3]

Upper Talarik Creek flows into Lake Iliamna, which flows through the Kvichak River into Bristol Bay. Waters in the Koktuli River drain into the Mulchatna River, a tributary of the Nushagak River which empties into Bristol Bay at Dillingham. Water from Lake Clark, approximately 20 miles (32 km) east of Pebble, flows down the Newhalen River to Lake Iliamna. [4]



The Kahiltna terrane is interpreted to represent a sediment trough formed on the landward (Alaska) side of the Wrangellia volcanic arc terrane, prior to collision of Wrangellia with Alaska. The Wrangellia and Kahiltna terranes docked to Alaska in the Cretaceous Period. This part of the Kahiltna terrane is dominated by Late Triassic basalt, andesite and sedimentary rocks overlain by Jurassic-Cretaceous andesitic turbidites. Cretaceous granitic intrusive activity was widespread in the Kahiltna terrane. Tertiary volcanic and sedimentary rocks, and Quaternary glacial deposits, developed over the older rocks. [5]

The Lake Clark (Alaska) fault, or a splay, probably lies within twenty miles (32 km) of the Pebble deposits and possibly much closer. The Lake Clark fault is a major right-lateral strike-slip crustal feature, considered to be a westward expression of the Castle Mountain fault. The actual ground trace of the fault and its splays are unknown in the Pebble area, due to extensive ground cover. [6] [7] A 2007 report indicates that magnitude 7.1 quakes occur on the fault on a 700-year cycle. [8] The Lake Clark fault several hundred miles to the north is sub-parallel to the Denali fault and considered to be of similar nature. A magnitude 7.9 quake struck the Denali fault in 2002. The subduction zone of the Aleutian Trench lies approximately 125 miles (200 km) south of Pebble. This zone was the source of the 1964 Good Friday earthquake of magnitude 9.2. [9]

The ore body

A contiguous body of ore is known as Pebble West where mineralization locally extends to the surface and as Pebble East where it is deeply buried. Pebble holds mostly low-grade ore, requiring a large-scale operation to economically recover it.

The Pebble deposit is hosted in porphyritic granodiorite to tonalite of Upper Cretaceous age intruded into deformed sedimentary rocks of the Jurassic to Cretaceous Kahiltna flysch terrane. [10]

The copper ore is a calc-alkali porphyry copper-gold-molybdenum deposit. The ore body extends from the surface to at least 1,700 metres (5,600 ft) depth. In the western part of the orebody, mineralization occurs in a complex of several small granodiorite cupolas, diorite sills, older intrusions, breccias, and sediments. The western part of the deposit is locally exposed at the surface; thin gossans are developed and oxidation reaches 100 feet (30 m) in depth. The orebody extends eastward across a fault contact, at depth. East of the fault mineralization occurs in abundant sills and in the intruded sediments. Farther east, and deeper, the sills coalesce into a deeply buried granodiorite pluton. Mineralization and ore continue into the pluton. The eastern part of the deposit was eroded when it was exposed at the surface millions of years ago. It has since been buried by a thickening-to-the-east wedge of post-mineralization-age Tertiary sedimentary and volcanic sedimentary rocks. [5] [11]

The age of mineralization at Pebble was reported in 2001 to extend for several million years between 86 million years ago and 89.5 MYA. [12]

Metallic minerals identified at Pebble include pyrite, chalcopyrite, molybdenite, and bornite, along with minor covellite, chalcocite, digenite and magnetite.


In 2008, Pebble was estimated to be the second-largest ore deposit of its type in the world in terms of the value of the contained metal, slightly smaller than Indonesia's Grasberg Mine, which contains more metal in a smaller amount of ore than Pebble. [13] Estimates have grown throughout the history of the project.

In February 2010, a resource estimate, based on a total of 509 drillholes and at a 0.3% copper equivalent cutoff (CuEQ), reported the combined Pebble deposit mineral resources of East and West comprise:

  • 5.94 billion tonnes of ore as "measured and indicated mineral resources" (=proven, see Mineral resource classification) grading 0.78% CuEQ, containing 55 billion pounds of copper, 67 million ounces of gold and 3.3 billion pounds of molybdenum; and
  • 4.84 billion tonnes of ore as "inferred mineral resources" (=estimated) grading 0.53% CuEQ, containing 25.6 billion pounds of copper, 40.4 million ounces of gold and 2.3 billion pounds of molybdenum. [14]

The 2014 resource estimate includes 6.44 billion tonnes in the measured and indicated categories containing 57 billion lb copper, 70 million oz gold, 3.4 billion lb molybdenum and 344 million oz silver; and 4.46 billion tonnes in the inferred category, containing 24.5 billion lb copper, 37 million oz gold, 2.2 billion lb molybdenum and 170 million oz silver. Quantities of palladium and rhenium also occur in the deposit. [15]

By dollar value, slightly more than half of the value is from copper, with the remainder split roughly equally between gold and molybdenum. Byproducts of silver, rhenium, and palladium metals would also be recovered.


Bristol Bay is home to the world's largest salmon run. All five Eastern Pacific species spawn in the bay's freshwater tributaries. Commercial fisheries include the world's largest sockeye salmon fishery. The Kvijack River has the single largest red salmon run in the world. [16] The Kvijack drains from Lake Iliamna, which is downstream of the deposit. Along with herring and other fisheries, salmon account for nearly 75% of local jobs. [17]

Sport fishing is another important local industry. Many lodges cater to sport fishermen exploiting the salmon and trout populations in the freshwater tributaries. Freshwater species include humpback whitefish (Coregonus pidschianpp), Dolly Varden trout (Salvelinus malma), and Rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). [18]

Seasonal subsistence harvesting of salmon and year-round subsistence harvesting of freshwater fish is a critical part of life for rural residents, most of whom live downstream of the mine site. [19]

Human populations

The Pebble site is within Lake and Peninsula Borough, about 1,600 inhabitants as of United States Census, 2010, adjacent to the Bristol Bay Borough of about 1000 inhabitants and the Dillingham Census Area, 4,800 inhabitants. Some 7,500 people live largely rural lifestyles within or near the area downstream of the Pebble site. The populations of Lake Clark National Park and other parts of the Bethel Census Area are upstream of the site or in a different watershed.

The populations in the area rely heavily on wild resources for subsistence, harvesting moose, caribou and salmon. Wild resources play an important part in the region's cultural heritage.



In 1987 Cominco Alaska Exploration (CAE) (which subsequently became Teck Resources) collected mineralized surface samples at the Pebble site from color anomalies visible from aircraft. The first two exploration holes were drilled in 1988; in 1989 twelve more drill holes, soil sampling, and geophysical surveys indicated that the Pebble West occurrence (originally named Pebble Beach) was part of a large copper porphyry system. [20] CAE continued drilling and other work through 1992, with a second drill campaign in 1997, with the resource doubled from 500M short tons to 1B short tons. [10]:17

In 2001, Northern Dynasty Minerals, Ltd. optioned the property from Teck Cominco, the successor to CAE's parent company. Northern Dynasty Minerals began exploration in 2002, which continued through 2013. In 2005, Northern Dynasty discovered the Pebble East deposit and acquired 100% ownership of the Pebble mining claims. [21] [22]

Project funding

In 2008, 140 million dollars were budgeted and approximately 150,000 feet (46,000 m) of additional drilling was completed. [23]

In 2009, 70 million dollars were budgeted, to complete a preliminary feasibility study, or "prefeasibility" study, and to prepare the project for permitting. [24]

In 2010, 73 million dollars were budgeted towards the prefeasibility report, environmental studies, and various administrative and community-relations work. Applications for development and operations permits were not planned until after 2010. [25] [26]

For 2011, 91 million dollars were budgeted to complete the prefeasibility study, leading to permit applications in 2012. Environmental and engineering studies including 45,000 feet (14,000 m) of drilling to decide on mine design and a complete environmental baseline.

Project particulars

Project ownership

The land is owned by the State of Alaska. [27] Pebble Mines Corp. holds mineral rights for 186 square miles (480 km2) of the area, an area that includes the Pebble deposits, as well as other, less explored, mineral deposits. [27] A sequence of mining companies and partnerships have owned the Alaska mining claims at and around Pebble since the initial claim staking by Cominco in 1987.

The Pebble Limited Partnership is now 100% owned by The Northern Dynasty Partnership, which is a wholly owned Canadian-based subsidiary of Northern Dynasty Minerals, Limited.

Three of the world's largest mining companies purchased shares of Northern Dynasty or became partners in the Pebble Limited Partnership through obligations to fund exploration and development. All have since divested their interests.

Mitsubishi Corporation sold its 9.1% interest in Northern Dynasty Minerals in 2011. [28]

Anglo American, a London-based mining company, struck a deal with Northern Dynasty to earn a 50% interest in a newly created Pebble Limited Partnership, the other 50% belonging to Northern Dynasty; between 2007 and 2013 Anglo American spent over half a billion dollars on the project. In December 2013 Anglo American walked away from the project, losing its 50% interest, which reverted to Northern Dynasty Minerals Limited. [29]

Rio Tinto Group, through its wholly owned subsidiary Kennecott Utah Copper purchased, for 87 million dollars, a 9.9% ownership of Northern Dynasty Minerals Limited in July, 2006, and in 2007 doubled that to 19.8% ownership, for an additional 94 million dollars. [30] In April 2014, the Rio Tinto Group gifted its shares, worth only approximately 18 million by then, to two Alaskan charitable foundations. [31] [32]

Northern Dynasty is one of several public mining companies controlled by Hunter Dickinson, a Vancouver-based Canadian mining corporation. [33] All but one of Hunter Dickinson Corporation's board members are also on the Northern Dynasty board. Most of the senior management of Northern Dynasty also hold senior management positions at Hunter Dickinson Corporation. [34] [35]


Pebble is the largest known undeveloped copper ore body in the world, measured by either the amount of contained metal or the amount of ore. [36]

Northern Dynasty estimated that Pebble contains over $300 billion worth of recoverable metals at early 2010 prices. [37]

A report released by Northern Dynasty in 2011 predicted profits for mine owners from a large-scale open-pit mine at Pebble, given appropriate assumptions about construction costs ($4.7 billion), scale (200,000 tons per day), lifetime (45 years), metal prices over that lifetime (2011 prices) and the mine design plan.

The study assumes a slurry pipeline will deliver ore concentrate from the mine to a new port on Cook Inlet, and that trucks will haul ore concentrates to Cook Inlet.

The plan expected the mine to return the initial capital investment in 3.2 years, employ over a thousand people for the first 25 years and provide a lifetime 23.2% pretax internal rate of return. The expected pretax cash flow was approximately $2 billion per year for much of the mine life and significantly more during the later years. The report states that 58% of the ore resource will remain at year 45. [38]


Northern Dynasty has applied for water rights permits to Upper Talarik Creek and the Koktuli River for use in mining. Altogether, Northern Dynasty has applied for rights to about 35 billion US gallons (130,000,000 m3) of ground and surface water per year, [39] about four times the annual throughput of drinking-quality water at the Anchorage Waste and Wastewater Utility. [40]

In April 2017 Northern Dynasty reported that it had received notice of approval of a Miscellaneous Land Use Permit from the Alaska Department of Natural Resources for ongoing activities at Pebble. [41]


Site-specific baseline data and scientific studies of potential environmental and social effects have been and are being conducted by the project operators and their consultants. These studies address water quality and other concerns. Among these are: potential Acid mine drainage - the chemical stability and weathering products of the tailings (waste rock) removed from the mine and of the newly exposed and blast-fractured rocks within the proposed mine; seismic risks to the impoundment systems designed to contain the tailings and to control their chemical behavior; and the effects of road and bridge construction on fish habitat. [42] [43]

Public interest in the project has also resulted in outside, and opposing, interests publishing scientific reviews of available data and comparisons with other projects. These include reports or summaries on; seismic risks, [44] acid rock drainage, [45] effects of roads and bridges on fish (roads supporting the Pebble mine could cross 20 known salmon streams), [46] and general water pollution-related concerns. [47]

The federal Environmental Protection Agency is conducting a scientific review of the Bristol Bay watershed focused on the Nushagak and Kvichak river drainages, in response to petitions from organizations opposed to Pebble. The report is expected to reach the public-comment stage in late 2011. [48]

Possible mining plan

While the exact scope of proposed mining activities have not been finalized, the general outline of the plan is known.

Pebble West would probably be mined as an open pit. The open pit might reach 2 miles (3.2 km) wide and several thousand feet deep. Most of the rock removed from the pit would become waste, amounting to as much as 10 billion tons. [49] That material, along with allowed discharge chemicals, would be stored permanently in two artificial lakes behind embankment dams. The largest would be 740 feet (230 m) tall and 4.3 miles (6.9 km) long. Pebble East would most likely be an underground mine.

Pebble would be similar to existing large copper porphyry mines such as Chuquicamata, Bingham Canyon and Ok Tedi, although the environmental setting and various technical considerations of Pebble distinguish it from these desert and tropical examples. Development and construction would consume years and cost billions of dollars. [50] Required infrastructure includes miles of roads, bridges and powerlines with pipelines for fuel and rock slurries.

Operating the mine would use and impound large amounts of surface water. The roads would carry fuel, industrial chemicals and supplies. [51]

Design possibilities include: construction of a port on Iniskin Bay of Cook Inlet with a two-lane freight road roughly 104 miles (167 km) long built along the north side of Lake Iliamna between the mine and the new port; trucks hauling ore concentrate to the port; pipelines along the road to carry fuel to the mine and a slurry of metal concentrate to the port. The slurry would be dewatered at the port before being shipped to a smelter, with a pipeline returning the water to the mine. [52] [53] Power to operate the mine would possibly come from a combination of overhead powerlines and a submarine cable across Cook Inlet. [39]

Feasibility studies (detailed mine construction and operation plans) were prepared by Pebble Mines Corp. The company expected to apply for permits in 2012 at the earliest. [54] [55]


The controversy over the proposed Pebble mine centers largely on the potential risk to the watershed, salmon and other fisheries. Mining opponents claim that the mine poses a significant and unacceptable risk to downstream fish stocks, and could cause an environmental disaster if built. Mining proponents claim that the mine can be developed and operated without significantly harming Bristol Bay area fish.

A steady stream of electoral, legislative, and legal challenges to possible future Pebble mine development are lodged in Alaska. Some of these assert that even the drilling and other scientific investigations conducted to date have caused significant adverse effects to the land and wildlife near the Pebble site. [56]

Pebble has been a major issue in Alaska politics since the mid-2000s; national environmental and sport-fishing organizations are involved, while national publications cover the issue. [57]

In 2006 one poll reported 28% of Alaskans in favor of and 53% opposed to Pebble and another reported 45% of Alaskans in favor and 31% in opposition. A poll of Bristol Bay residents reported 20% in favor and 71% opposed. [58] [59] [60] Fifty-seven percent of Alaskan voters in a 2008 statewide election voted against a ballot measure that would have essentially outlawed the project and perhaps similar developments elsewhere in Alaska.

Organizations including the Resource Development Council, Alaska Mining Association, and the Alaska Chamber of Commerce support the project. The proposal has strong support among statewide elected officials.

Opposition to the proposal was led by organizations including; the Renewable Resources Coalition (formed in 2005 to oppose the Pebble project), [61] local native groups (such as the Bristol Bay Native Association [62]), commercial and sport fishing organizations (such as the Alaska Independent Fishermen's Marketing Association [63] and the Alaska Wilderness Recreation and Tourism Association [64]), and environmental groups (such as American Rivers [65] and Trout Unlimited). [66] Deceased Senator Ted Stevens, a strong proponent of other resource extraction projects, in 2007 expressed opposition to the Pebble proposal. [67]

In April 2009, a Native delegation from the Bristol Bay region attended the annual shareholder's meeting of Anglo American, the major mining company behind the Pebble project. The delegation met with Cynthia Carroll, CEO of Anglo American, claiming that the Bristol Bay watershed is no place for an open-pit mine. [68]

Multiple UK jewelers [69] pledged not to buy gold from the Pebble mine if it is built, joining several American jewellery retailers and manufacturers who had done the same in 2008. [70]

Arguments against the proposal

  • Opponents to the mine point out that it is about jobs—current sustainable fishing (world class fishery) vs. unknown future jobs which characteristically leave.
  • The fish in the watershed, and the wildlife that depend on them, are too important to risk in exchange for the mine's economic benefits.
  • Accidental discharge of process chemicals and byproducts, heavy metals, and acid mine drainage to the environment are realistic concerns in mine design and operation. They are dangerous to fish and other wildlife. Downstream salmon and freshwater fish species are vulnerable to mine-generated pollutants. [71] A threat to the fish would amount to a threat to the regional subsistence lifestyle.
  • According to the EPA, mining has contaminated portions of the headwaters of over 40 percent of watersheds in the western continental U.S., and reclamation of 500,000 abandoned mines in 32 states could cost tens of billions of dollars. [72]
  • A recent study of 25 modern large hard rock metal mines compared water quality outcomes with environmental impact statement () predictions from the permitting stage. 76 percent (19 mines) of the 25 mines violated water quality standards in releases to either surface or groundwater. In this study "violated water quality standards" does not necessarily mean that the mines failed to abide by their permits. When the 15 mines with high acid-drainage, high contaminant leaching potential and proximity to ground water are considered separately, this number is 93% (14 mines). [73] [74]
  • A report commissioned by opponents criticizes for community, worker safety, public health, and environmental problems at their mining operations in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Mali, Ireland, and Nevada and notes the difference between 's stated corporate goals and their actual corporate performance. [75]
  • claimed that earthquake hazards in the area are poorly known, and preliminary plans by the mining company do not prepare adequately for the potential risk. [76]


  • The mineral rights and the project are controlled by Canadian, British, Australian and Japanese corporations. [77]
  • The mine may not provide significant tax revenue to the state. Due to Alaska's tax structure, oil and gas drilling returns over 20% of resource value to the state and municipalities, fishing returns 1% to 5%, and mining returns approximately 1.5%. [78] However, considering the mine contains over $500 Billion in resources, [79] this 1.5% tax amounts to a maximum of $7.5 Billion in tax revenue over the course of the mine's operationor or $166 million/year or some four times the commercial tax budget in 2011 ($43 million). [80] The annual revenue potential of the mine is yet unknown, and consequently so is the tax revenue to the State. [78] [81]

Arguments for the proposal


  • The mine and supporting activities would provide significant tax revenue to the state. The State of Alaska predicts that direct mining tax revenue, even without Pebble, will be one of the most important sources of non-oil tax revenue (exceeding revenue from fishing). [78]
  • The mine will create well-paying jobs in an increasingly poverty-stricken region [82]—roughly 2,000 jobs for construction, dropping to 1,000 permanent jobs during the 30- to 60-year expected life span of the mine. [83]
  • The mine would provide a domestic resource of raw materials lowering the United States reliance on foreign sources. [84]


  • Protection of the environment and fisheries will be ensured by the stringent environmental review and permitting process, including an EIS, that is required before development is allowed.[ citation needed]
  • Much of the poor environmental track record of mining occurred before current technologies and regulations.[ citation needed]
  • Northern Dynasty has a "no net loss" policy for fisheries. [85]

Legal challenges

EPA action

In April 2013, EPA issued a draft assessment of the impact of proposed mining plans on the fisheries, wildlife and Alaska native tribes in the region. [86]

In January 2014, the final assessment was released. It questioned the future of salmon habitat should the mine be opened, but the agency did not use its authority to stop the mine. [87] Pebble Partnership CEO John Shively severely criticized the EPA assessment, saying it was unscientific and that it sought a predetermined outcome. [88] A few days after the release, Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Begich openly opposed the mine, breaking with the other members of the Alaska congressional delegation, Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski and Republican Representative Don Young. [89]

In July 2014, before the project had submitted its EIS, EPA Region 10 proposed restrictions employing Section 404 (c) of the Clean Water Act, restrictions that would effectively prohibit the project. [90] [91] This was the twelfth time the clause has been employed since the Act's passage in 1971. [92]

On July 18, 2014, in a published statement, Pebble Partnership CEO Tom Collier said that the project would continue its litigation against EPA; noted that the EPA's action was under investigation by the Office of the EPA Inspector General and by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform; and also noted that two bills were pending in the US House and Senate seeking to clarify that EPA did not have the authority to preemptively veto or otherwise restrict development projects prior to the onset of federal and state permitting. Collier's statement also said that EPA’s proposal was based on outdated mining scenarios that were not part of the project's approach. [91] On December 18, 2009, an appeal was filed in Alaska Superior Court contending that a decision in November 2009 by the Alaska Department of Natural Resources’ commissioner rejecting their challenge of a 2009 exploration permit was inappropriate. The suit contends that ADNR failed to give Alaskans adequate notice and opportunity to comment on the permit and that it failed to consider the appeal. Trustees for Alaska is pursuing the suit for Nunamta Aulukestai and two Bristol Bay residents. [93]

In May 2017 the Pebble Partnership and EPA jointly announced they had reached a settlement agreement to end the legal dispute regarding the EPA's Proposed Determination issued under CWA 404(c) in July 2014. The Agreement called for the EPA to withdraw the regulatory action while the Pebble Partnership agreed to terminate outstanding lawsuits brought against the EPA. [94]

Nondalton Tribal Council et al. v. State of Alaska DNR

Six federally recognized tribes filed Nondalton Tribal Council et al. v. State of Alaska DNR [95] with the Alaska Superior Court (Third Judicial District) on May 5, 2009. The suit challenged the validity of the 2005 Bristol Bay Area Plan, one of many Area Plans created and administered by the State of Alaska that, along with other State and Federal rules, define land status and the appropriate and legal uses of State land within the plan boundaries. [96]

The Bristol Bay Area Plan (BBAP) applies to about 12 million acres (49,000 km2) of state-owned uplands and lands beneath rivers and lakes in the Bristol Bay drainages, including lands at and in the vicinity of the proposed mine. The plan also covers about 7 million acres (28,000 km2) of state-owned tide and submerged lands.

The suit alleged that the 2005 BBAP, which replaced the original 1984 version, drastically altered, without legal justification, the land-use designations, classifications and acreages defined in the 1984 plan; and that the 2005 plan failed to provide adequate protection for subsistence resources, sport hunting and fishing, wildlife habitat and other renewable resources. If successful, the suit will require ADNR to write a new area plan, a many months-long process involving much public input and review of draft versions, although ultimately, approval of an area plan is decided by the Commissioner of Natural Resources, an appointee of the Governor. As of Aug. 7, 2009, DNR had not filed an answer to the complaint.

Nunamta Aulukestai et al. v. State of Alaska DNR

Nunamta Aulukestai et al. v. State of Alaska DNR, [97] was filed in Alaska Superior Court (Third Judicial District) on July 29, 2009, by Trustees for Alaska on behalf of the Bristol Bay Native organization Nunamta Aulukestai, former Alaska First Lady Bella Hammond, original Alaska Constitutional Convention delegate Victor Fischer and other individuals. The suit seeks "Declaratory and Injunctive Relief," asserting that the Alaska Department of Natural Resources repeatedly violated Section VIII of the Alaska Constitution, which specifically provides that there shall be, " disposals or leases of state lands...without prior public notice and other safeguards of the public's interest..."

The plaintiffs are seeking, among other things, an injunction voiding the project's existing permits, including water-use permits. The requested injunction was specific to Pebble permits and would not directly apply to other mining projects. The suit alleges that ADNR's "pattern of permitting," is defective because it was not sufficiently rigorous in determining that issuing a permit would best serve public interest, as demonstrated by a lack of documented scientific studies and by lack of public review and input, prior to issuing permits. A Declaration by one of the plaintiffs references the Commentary on Article VIII on State Lands and Natural Resources of December 15, 1955; "As requirements change and many tasks become routine, appropriate modifications can be made in procedures if rigid requirements are not specified in the Constitution itself."

The suit also alleges that significant, and documented, adverse effects on land, water, and wildlife have already occurred as a result of drilling and other exploration activities at Pebble since 1989. [98] In late 2009 the presiding judge rejected a State of Alaska motion to dismiss the case and also denied a motion for a preliminary injunction to stop mining exploration. A Petition for Review on the preliminary injunction decision was filed with the Alaska Supreme Court.

In July 2010, the Alaska Superior Court ruled that Nunamta Aulukestai et al. v. State of Alaska DNR would proceed to a non-jury trial in December 2010. The ruling dismissed one of the six claims in the lawsuit and limited the scope of the upcoming trial to the Pebble permits, rather than to the Alaska mineral exploration permitting system in general. [99]

Political actions

Two bills designed to outlaw large-scale mining in the Pebble area were introduced in the Alaska state legislature in 2007; both stalled in committee. A third attempted (by ballot measure) piece of legislation was the Alaska Clean Water Initiative, 2008. It was voted down after months of high-profile public debate, heavy advertising, and a series of judgements by the Alaska State Supreme Court. The measure remained an active public issue; in June 2009 the state of Alaska's Alaska Public Offices Commission reported violations of campaign funding laws during the contest. [100] [101]

Then-Governor Sarah Palin was a strong supporter of the project and faced criticism about her opposition to the initiative, the involvement of state government and the intended use of a $7 million federal earmark to facilitate it. Ethics questions were raised about her and her husband Todd's participation. [102]

Jay Hammond State Game Refuge

A proposal to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to create a fish refuge in the Koktuli and Talarik watersheds was supported by mine opponents and opposed by Northern Dynasty. The Alaska Board of Fisheries voted to create a panel to study the proposal (which could decide to recommend a refuge to the legislature). Both sides claimed this as a victory. [103] In March 2007 the Board voted to take no action on the proposal due to pending legislation. [104]

In January, 2007 Senate Bill 67, introduced by Senator Gary Stevens, of Kodiak, proposed the establishment of a State Fish and Game Refuge covering about 7 million acres (28,000 km2) of state land in the Kvichak and Nushagak drainages (with the refuge to be named after former Alaska Governor Jay Hammond). It proposed that no uses incompatible with: fish and wildlife populations; commercial or subsistence food gathering; or recreation would be allowed in the refuge. The bill sought to close the refuge to new mining claims. Most significantly, the bill would have made illegal the storage or disposal of any quantity of, "industrial waste," thereby making it impossible to develop any industry, including mines, within the refuge. [105] The bill died in the Senate Resources Committee.

Salmon Spawning Waters

In February 2007, a bill to stop the project by increasing protections for spawning salmon died in the Human Resources committee. [106] [107] [108]

2008 Alaska Clean Water Initiative

In August 2008, Ballot Measure 4, the "Alaska Clean Water Initiative," was voted down (approximately 57% against and 43% in favor) in that year's primary election. The measure was written to apply statewide (which the Constitution of Alaska demands). Supporters of the Measure argued that it would not affect any other mining operation. Opponents argued that it would have had serious, and unnecessary, adverse effects on the mining industry statewide.

Property rights

Pebble supporters argued that such bills and measures would constitute an illegal taking of property rights (mineral rights granted by the State of Alaska to holders of mining claims on state land). [109]


Pebble ... Mine ...



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