Aug 22, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Reports: Trump officials to hit brakes on controversial Alaskan mine

The Pile River flows into the northern end of Lake Iliamna, the largest lake in the state of Alaska, covering about 1,000 square miles.

The Pile River flows into Alaska's Lake Iliamna. The lake and its tributaries are the headwaters of the Bristol Bay region. Photo: Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The Trump administration will place new hurdles in front of plans to build a large gold and copper mine in a sensitive Alaskan ecosystem, and may block the project outright, according to reports Saturday.

Driving the news: The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal report the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will say Monday that the Pebble Mine would cause "significant degradation."

  • The agency will require major new environmental mitigation measures before the project in Alaska's Bristol Bay watershed can receive needed approvals.
  • Politico reports that the Trump administration plans to outright block the project, marking a "surprise reversal" of earlier support.

The intrigue: The reportedly imminent steps follow opposition to the project from key supporters of President Trump, including his son Donald Trump, Jr.

  • Other opponents include Fox News' Tucker Carlson and Nick Ayers, who is former chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence.

Why it matters: The project, which the Obama administration did not allow to proceed, is proposed in a region that's home to the world's largest sockeye salmon fishery. Environmentalists, outdoor enthusiasts and fishing industry groups oppose the mine.

  • Even imposing new requirements could further endanger the project, because Democratic White House nominee Joe Biden opposes the Pebble Mine too.

Yes, but: Pebble Limited Partnership CEO Tom Collier is expressing confidence that the project can advance with new environmental protection steps.

  • "They’re going to expect a substantial amount of mitigation. But we’ve known that for a months. … That’s something we expect can be dealt with in due course," he told the Post.
  • And per the WSJ: "Mr. Collier said his team is working on a new mitigation proposal he expects to be finished within a few weeks and lead to a resolution with the Corps before Election Day."

Of note: "The White House is not in a position to comment on this at this time," spokesman Judd Deere told Axios. The Army Corps did not provide immediate comment.

Go deeper: Army Corps rules Alaskan mine will not harm salmon fishery

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