Nov 25, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Trump administration denies permit for controversial Pebble Mine in Alaska

The Newhalen River empties into Lake iliamna at the village of Newhalen.

The Newhalen River empties into Lake iliamna at the village of Newhalen, located about 20 miles from the prioposed Pebble Mine site. Photo: Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied a permit for the controversial Pebble Mine in Alaska on Wednesday, saying the "proposed project is contrary to the public interest," per the New York Times.

Why it matters: The decision is a win for Indigenous, environmental and fishing groups who argued the proposed gold and copper mine would be detrimental to the wildlife in region, which is home to the world's largest sockeye salmon fishery.

  • The project was also opposed by President Trump's son, Donald Trump Jr., Fox News' Tucker Carlson and Nick Ayers, former chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence.

What they're saying: The Army Corps said it had “determined that the applicant’s plan for the discharge of fill material does not comply with Clean Water Act guidelines and concluded that the proposed project is contrary to the public interest," per NYT.

  • The agency added that the decision “reflects a regulatory process that is fair, flexible and balanced.”

The other side: Pebble Limited Partnership CEO Tom Collier said the company was "obviously dismayed" by the decision, which he called "politically driven."

  • "One of the real tragedies of this decision is the loss of economic opportunities for people living in the area," Collier said in a statement Wednesday.
  • "This is also a lost opportunity for the state’s future economy — especially at a time when Alaska is seeing record job losses from the impacts associated with Covid."
  • He noted that in issuing its final environmental review in July, the Army Corps said the project would not lead to "long-term changes in the health of the commercial fisheries" in the region.
    • In August, the agency delayed its decision on the project until the company submitted a plan to mitigate "unavoidable adverse impacts to aquatic resources," including in nearby wetlands and streams. That plan was submitted last week, per NYT.
  • "Since the beginning of the federal review, our team has worked closely with the USACE staff to understand their requirements for responsibly developing the project including changing the transportation corridor and re-vamping the approach to wetlands mitigation. All of these efforts led to a comprehensive, positive [environmental impact statement] for the project that clearly stated it could be developed responsibly," Collier said.
  • "It is very disconcerting to see political influence in this process at the eleventh hour."

Worth noting: Prior to the election, President-elect Joe Biden vowed to block the project if he won.

What's next: Pebble Mine said it plans to appeal the Army Corps' decision.

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