The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took further action on Friday to prevent construction and development of the Pebble Mine region in Alaska by attempting to place prohibitive restrictions on the future project. Pebble Mine is an initiative looking to capitalize on the Pebble deposits natural mineral reserve. The site of the deposit sits roughly 200 miles Southwest of Anchorage. The area is inhabited by a few thousand residents and hosts a large ore body that consists mostly of porphyry copper.
The driving factor behind the EPA's plan to block the mine's construction is to protect the ecosystem in Alaska's Bristol Bay watershed, a pristine body of water that supports, among other species, the world's largest run of sockeye salmon.
To this point, Bristol Bay remains untouched by many man-made pollutants that have devastated other bodies of water, which has allowed its ecosystem to thrive.
The EPA contends that the disposal of dredge and filler material that will result from mining activities will do irreparable damage to the wildlife in Bristol Bay.
This belief is one reason the EPA has taken such a strong position of opposition to any construction despite the fact that the Pebble Mine project hasn't even progressed to the point of submitting an initial project description for permitting.
Based off of their independent research, the EPA concluded that even a conservative projection of a small operation could cause too much irreversible damage to a rare and precious ecosystem.
They also have reason to believe that the mining project won't be a small one.
They cite a plan filed by the mine owner, Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd., to the U.S. Securities and Exchange commission that details a desire to excavate the largest open pit ever constructed in North America. According to the EPA, the depth would approach the depth of the Grand Canyon.
With a project of that size dredge and other material needed to be disposed by the mine would be significant.
Pebble Limited Partnership, the group in charge of developing the Pebble Mine project, disagrees with the EPA's position. They maintain that their first priority is to protect the Bristol Bay watershed and the surrounding environment. The fishing industry is a major source of provision for the local population and they would never do anything to jeopardize that.
They also disagree with the methodology of the EPA in this situation, believing that exercising preemptive action before an initial permits have been applied for is not only unfair, but beyond the scope of the federal agencies abilities.
The Pebble Limited Partnership filed suit against the agency in May to that effect.
They believe that they can arrive at a solution that allows the state and country to reap the benefits of a rich mineral deposit without negatively impacting the environment.
Time will tell if they get the opportunity to try.