Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. [NDM-TSX; NAK-NYSE] received a boost this week following reports that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] plans to consider whether to withdraw proposed Obama-era restrictions on mining activity in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region.
The EPA, as part of a 2017 settlement with Northern Dynasty, the developer of the proposed Pebble copper-gold project, agreed to initiate a process for withdrawing the proposed restrictions.
But in January 2018, the EPA suspended that effort, saying it wanted more information on how the project could impact fish in the Bristol Bay area, which produces about half of the world’s sockeye salmon.
Northern Dynasty now says the EPA will restart the process to withdraw the proposed restrictions, which were initiated by the Obama administration in 2014. The decision was welcomed by Tom Collier, CEO of the Pebble Partnership, a wholly-owned Northern Dynasty subsidiary, which was established to design, permit and operate a mine at Pebble.
In a June 26, 2019 press release, he said the restrictions, as proposed, pose a threat to investment in responsible resource development throughout the United States.
The announcement coincides with a jump in the value of Northern Dynasty shares, which hit 80 cents on June 26, 2019, up from 61 cents on June 25, 2019. On Thursday the shares were down 1.28% or $0.01 to 77 cents to trade in a 52-week range of 56 cents and $1.47.
“The idea that development projects can be vetoed before they are even proposed, or a comprehensive permitting process has been undertaken, is one that should not take root in this country,” Collier said.
Meanwhile, the environmental impact statement [EIS] and federal permitting process for Pebble under the National Environmental Policy Act [NEPA] being led by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continue to advance, Northern Dynasty said in a press release on Thursday June 27.
The Corps has published a timeline that indicates it expects to finalize the Pebble Project EIS in early 2020 and issue a final record of decision by the middle of next year.
“We have every confidence that the Pebble Project as proposed will meet the rigorous environmental standards enforced in Alaska and the [United States] and that the EIS permitting process now under way will demonstrate that compliance through an open, objective, transparent and science-driven review,” said Collier.
News that the EPA has restarted the process to withdraw the propose restrictions comes after Northern Dynasty recently arranged to raise another US$6.5 million to support the advancement of the Pebble Project.
Northern Dynasty’s principal asset, owned through its wholly-owned Alaska-based U.S. subsidiary, Pebble Limited Partnership, is a 100% interest in a contiguous block of 2,402 mineral claims in southwest Alaska, including the Pebble deposit.
First discovered in 1989, it has been described as one of the greatest stores of mineral wealth on the planet.
At a 0.3% copper equivalent cut-off, the Pebble Project is estimated to contain 6.456 billion tonnes in the combined measured and indicated categories at a grade of 0.40% copper, 0.34 g/t gold, 240 ppm molybdenum, containing 57 billion pounds of copper, 71 million ounces of gold, 3.4 billion pounds of molybdenum and 345 million ounces of silver.
However, the project has been a lightning rod for global environmentalists who expressed concerns about the impact of such a large mining operation on local salmon runs.
Northern Dynasty said proceeds of the latest financing will enable the company to continue the field program at Pebble and other work needed to support the completion of the environmental impact study permitting process for the project in 2020.
Meanwhile, the company said it remains in discussions with potential partners to secure long-term financing to finalize permitting and initiate project development.