ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - The Trump administration on Friday proposed approving a permit for a Canadian-owned company to build a copper and gold mine near a cherished Alaska salmon fishery, boosting a project the Obama administration tried to block on environmental grounds.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released its final environmental impact statement on the Pebble Mine, owned by Canada’s Northern Dynasty Minerals, that would allow construction of the mine and associated developments, including an 82-mile (132-km) road system.
That paves the way for a final decision on the project in as little as 30 days.
During the Obama administration, the project opposed by the fishing industry, Alaska Natives, and environmentalists appeared dead. The administration tried to prevent permitting for Pebble construction after a study it launched concluded the mine would irreparably damage the salmon-rich habitat, and the people and wildlife that depend on it.
But the Pebble Limited Partnership said the Corps’ analysis showed such fears were unfounded.
“After a lengthy misinformation campaign many were led to believe a mine at Pebble would harm the fishery,” said Tom Collier, chief executive of the Pebble Limited Partnership.
“Today’s report ... turns that lie on its head – returning salmon won’t be harmed, subsistence fishing won’t be harmed, and the commercial fishing industry won’t be harmed,” he said.
Project opponents disagreed.
“For the Army Corps to rubber-stamp a massive toxic open-pit mine in the headwaters of a national food source just doesn’t make sense,” said Andy Wink, executive director of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association.
The proposed road is a change from the original plan submitted by the Pebble Limited Partnership. The company wanted to access the mine using icebreakers to cross Alaska’s largest lake, but the Corps determined a road skirting the north side of the lake was the “least environmentally damaging practicable alternative.”
Native organizations that own land along the route have vowed to prevent Pebble from using it, which could tie the project up in legal wrangling.
Additional reporting by Reporting by Arunima Kumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Richard Valdmanis, Jonathan Oatis and Tom Brown