Governor submits letter requesting suspension of EIS in the Pebble Mine Project

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - In a letter dated Friday and submitted to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Alaska District, Gov. Bill Walker and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott have requested the Corps suspend the environmental impact statement process in the Pebble Mine Project.

“The PLP (Pebble Limited Partnership) has yet to demonstrate to us or the Alaska public that they have proposed a feasible and realistic project. Without, at minimum a preliminary economic assessment, but preferably a pre-feasibility study, the corps will be unable to take a hard look at all the reasonable alternatives in the draft EIS,” the letter states.

The Pebble Limited Partnership wants to develop a copper and gold mine near a major salmon fishery in Alaska's Bristol Bay region.

Project details released earlier this year would indicate that the Pebble Partnership group has already made substantial changes to its development plans, including alterations that would lessen the negative environmental impact: Notables include a development footprint "less than half the size that was previously published"; they will focus on one specific drainage instead of multiple, limiting it to the North Fork Koktuli; cyanide use has been cut out.

In a statement released June 30th, The Pebble Partnership announced their feelings on Governor Walker's most recent request.

“We find it incredibly disappointing that the governor’s request to suspend the NEPA process is nearly identical to that brought forward by the anti-Alaska, anti-development Natural Resources Defense Council. We expect this type of stall tactic from ENGOs opposed to any kind of development but not from the Governor of Alaska and especially when the project is on Alaska land. Frankly, the governor does not make a compelling case to suspend the NEPA process," The Pebble Partnership said in a release.

The statement continues to argue against the action claiming that it will slow future investment which in turn will limit the states resource-related jobs potential. Pebble Partnership says it believes it can meet the technical and environmental standards of Alaska and call on the governor to believe in it too, not challenge the opportunity.

Opponents have primarily cited the adverse affects the mine could have on the local environment, well-known as a prominent fishing ground and fragile ecosystem comprising a variety of animals and natural resources.

The Natural Resource Defense Council sites that the mine would require building earthen dams as tall as 740 feet to contain about 10 billion tons of mine tailings and keep it from the surrounding environment and drain an extra 35 billion gallons of water from salmon habitat every year.

Commissioner Andy Mack with the Department of Natural resources says there are still too many unanswered questions about the project regardless of if Pebble Partnership believes that it can work to meet Alaska's standards.

In April, The Corps announced it would extend the timeline to June 29 for the public to comment ahead of an environmental review of the proposed Pebble mine.

Corps officials said an early draft of that document should be released publicly by the end of January of 2019.

KTUU’s Beth Verge and The Associated Press contributed to portions of this article.

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