Latest Pebble Project Changes Confirm a Fundamentally Broken Permitting Process

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May 22, 2020

Daniel Cheyette, Vice President, Lands & Natural Resources
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Latest Pebble Project Changes Confirm a Fundamentally Broken Permitting Process
Pebble’s new preferred transportation corridor would cross BBNC surface and subsurface lands north of Lake Iliamna

Anchorage, AK – On a media call earlier today, the Army Corps of Engineers’ Alaska District office confirmed the Pebble Limited Partnership (PLP) will utilize a transportation route north of Lake Iliamna, rather than its earlier routes that rely on ferries to cross the lake. This is a significant project change, and one that is not reflected in the preliminary final environmental impact statement (PFEIS). The Corps said it would not revise or conduct a supplemental EIS to reflect project changes and will not allow for public or expert agency comments on the revisions. The current EIS timeline remains unchanged.

The new route would transverse BBNC surface and subsurface lands, including at its eastern terminus that sits on property jointly owned by subsidiaries of BBNC and Igiugig Village Council. Both entities expressed to the Corps and PLP that these lands are not and will not be available to accommodate Pebble mine. In addition, the permitting process revealed that the northern route is the only one feasible to accommodate the 78-year mine plan that would mine a significantly larger portion of the Pebble deposit, with a significantly larger footprint. A major change this late in the process is yet another sign of PLP’s willingness to take “something modest and conservative into the permitting process” in order to obtain the permits for what will ultimately become a much larger mine.

After learning about the likely change from a nearly month-old memo obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request, BBNC sent a letter to the Corps reiterating that PLP does not and will not have permission to access its lands. BBNC also asked the Corps to remove from consideration any plan that would rely on BBNC surface and subsurface estates. The letter from BBNC can be seen here.

“It is unacceptable for PLP to make such a significant change in its plans after the completion of the preliminary final environmental impact statement,” said BBNC Vice President of Lands Dan Cheyette. “There are numerous problems with the northern transportation route. It has not been vetted and scrutinized by both the public and cooperating agencies on the same level as other transportation routes. It crosses lands that are not and will not be available for the purpose of building Pebble mine. And most importantly, it is a clear sign that PLP has no plans to stop at its current 20-year mine plan. At the very least, this change necessitates a supplemental environmental impact statement, if not a complete revision to the current review.”

Beyond revealing its true intentions for a larger mine – which PLP has long pitched to potential investors – the change in the applicants preferred alternative after the completion of the preliminary final environmental impact statement means the northern corridor has not received the deep scrutiny and analysis of other routes that relied on ferries across Lake Iliamna. At best, the change means PLP is continuing to promote a huge mine operation to investors while telling Alaskans and federal and state regulators that it only intends to mine for 20 years. At worst, it means Alaskans are stuck with an EIS that vastly underestimates the potential impacts of this proposed project to the world’s most valuable and important wild sockeye salmon fishery. Both possibilities reflect a permitting process that has created more questions than it has answered.

“It is completely misleading and inaccurate for the Corps to suggest that such a major change this late in the process is what Alaskans wanted,” Cheyette continued. “As it stands now, the Corps is barreling towards a record of decision based on a project application that is significantly different than the focus of the preliminary final environmental impact statement. This is unacceptable, and about as far as PLP and the Corps can get from a thorough and robust permitting process.”

For a robust analysis of the myriad deficiencies identified by expert agencies, please click here. A detailed description of BBNC’s lands along the northern corridor is available upon request.


About BBNC: Bristol Bay Native Corporation is a responsible Alaska Native investment corporation dedicated to the mission of “Enriching Our Native Way of Life.” Established through the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971, BBNC works to protect the land in Bristol Bay, celebrate the legacy of its people, and enhance the lives of its shareholders.