Anchorage, Alaska — Northern Dynasty Minerals is confident it will secure a new partner for its contested undeveloped Pebble copper/gold project in Alaska following the announcement Friday that First Quantum Minerals will not exercise an option for a share in the project.
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"I believe we will secure the necessary funding to continue the permitting and review process for Pebble under the National Environmental Policy Act," said Tom Collier, CEO of Pebble Partnership, in a statement Monday. "This will result in an Environmental Impact Statement for Pebble."
Pebble Partnership is Northern Dynasty's operating subsidiary for Pebble.
"Pebble remains one of the nation's most important undeveloped mineral resources," Collier said. "It is on state land and is an important economic asset for Alaska. Our project is well defined and we are going to continue communicating with Alaskans about why we believe in the opportunity it represents."
First Quantum was not available Tuesday to comment on the reason for its decision. However, opposition groups including tribal entities from the Bristol Bay region and the Natural Resource Defense Council, a major US conservation organization, mounted an intense lobbying campaign on First Quantum's management to exit the project and also attended a recent shareholder meeting, according to the NRDC.
The groups also meet with management at BlackRock, an equity investment group holding a major stake in First Quantum. BlackRock has been touting a new "sustainable" investment strategy, and the NRDC playing on that in meetings with BlackRock, it said.
Pebble has reduced its project scope by about 50%, although exact have not been released. The company submitted permit applications to the Corps of Engineers late last year. The Corps has deemed the application complete and has initiated the draft EIS process. If built, the mine would be connected by road to a new port on the west side of Lower Cook Inlet from where ore concentrates would be shipped.
Opponents to the mine were quick to celebrate First Quantum's decision.
"No project is worth more than a culture or a way of life" that would be jeopardized if the mine affected Bristol Bay's rich salmon fisheries, said Robert Heyano, board president of the United Tribes of Bristol Bay, a Native American opposition group in the region, said Monday.
While many Bristol Bay residents see the mine as a threat to fisheries, Collier said previously that the Pebble project, if built, will also provide high-paying, year-round jobs in villages in the region and much-needed tax base to the Lake and Peninsula Borough, an economically depressed region.
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