The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has reported that the planned open-pit copper-gold mine in Alaska is environmentally sound, thus paving the way for Canada’s Northern Dynasty Minerals to develop the mine.
The USACE, through its Environment Impact Statement (EIS), permitted the development of the Pebble mine that covers a 5.3 sq. mile area in southwestern Alaska. Once developed, the mine is expected to yield around 1.36bn mt of mineralized material over its 20-year life. The mine could potentially produce 660,000mt of copper/gold concentrate and around 15,000mt of molybdenum per year.
The Pebble Project has been mired in controversy since it was first announced 15 years ago. The mine’s development was initially opposed by Alaska’s fishing industry and natives, on the grounds that its proximity to the state’s salmon-rich habitat would adversely impact the biodiversity of the area. The Obama administration had denied permission for the mine’s development based on these reports.
However, the EIS has indicated that there are no such dangers from the development of the project. The statement, according to Tom Collier, chief executive officer, Pebble Partnership, notes that the mine can be developed without harming the Bristol Bay fishing habitat. He added that the project had the potential to contribute to Alaska’s economy and employment through its operations and multi-billion dollar construction.
The large copper deposits found at Pebble Project also gain significance in the light of recent reports that suggest production at Codelco’s El Teniente mine in Chile could reduce over the next few years and impact copper supply. If that does come to pass, the industry could look to Pebble to bridge the deficit.