Sun, May 14, 2017 - Page 1 News List

US EPA says mine can pursue Alaska operation permits

AP, JUNEAU, Alaska

A Pebble Mine employee digs in the Bristol Bay region of Alaska on July 13, 2007.

Photo: AP

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has cleared a way for a company to seek permits to develop a massive copper and gold deposit near the headwaters of a world-class salmon fishery in southwest Alaska.

As part of a court settlement with the Pebble Limited Partnership, the EPA agreed to begin the process of withdrawing proposed restrictions on development in the Bristol Bay region, an area that produces about half of the world’s sockeye salmon.

The agreement — signed on Thursday, but released on Friday — came four months into the administration of US President Donald Trump, which supporters of the proposed Pebble Mine hoped would give it a fairer shake than they believed they received under former US president Barack Obama.

The mining industry has seen promising signs from the administration, including a willingness to take a different look at projects and to review regulations seen as overly burdensome, said Luke Popovich, a spokesman for the US National Mining Association.

“I think the public is in no danger of seeing genuine environmental protection diminished,” he said. “We’re simply asking for a more efficient process.”

Environmentalists say the Pebble agreement potentially gives a go-ahead for industry to challenge EPA actions or to seek permits about which they previously might have been uncertain.

“It obviously sends a psychological message to big mining companies that if they were nervous about getting permits in the past ... that this is their golden opportunity to get their mine through the process,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director for the Center for Biological Diversity environmental group.

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