It has been described as one of the greatest stores of mineral wealth on the planet.
By Peter Kennedy
Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd.’s [NDM-TSX, NAK-NYSE] giant Pebble Project in Alaska is also a lightning rod for global environmentalists who expressed concerns about the impact of such a large mining operation on local salmon runs. But it is clear that Vancouver-based Northern Dynasty remains committed to getting the copper-gold-molybdenum project into production.
During a gold and silver mining conference in San Francisco on November 21, Northern Dynasty President and CEO Ronald Thiessen said the company is taking a fresh approach in a renewed attempt to gain a mining permit. The strategy includes advancing a proposed mine that is smaller and more responsive to stakeholder concerns.
Northern Dynasty is also hoping to find a new partner to replace Anglo American, which had the right to earn a 50% interest in Pebble, but withdrew from the partnership in September, 2013 after investing US $541 million.
“We know that we need to change the narrative,” Thiessen said during a speech to the Cambridge House International Silver & Gold Summit. He was referring to a renewed emphasis on trying to change the way the project is perceived by communities in the Bristol Bay region about 350 km southwest of Anchorage.
The Pebble deposit was discovered in 1989. The current resource estimate includes an eye-popping 6.44 billion tonnes in the measured and indicated categories, containing 57 billion pounds of copper, 70 million ounces of gold, 3.4 billion pounds of molybdenum and 344 million ounces of silver.
On top of that amount is an inferred resource of 4.46 billion tonnes, containing 24.5 billion pounds of copper, 37 million ounces of gold, 2.2 billion pounds of pounds of molybdenum and 170 million ounces of silver.
While former U.S. President Obama was in power, the company had blamed resistance from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for thwarting its plans and sparking a court battle with the EPA. But now that Obama has been replaced by Donald Trump, the company is ready to try and obtain the necessary permits after a legal settlement in May with the EPA. The company has indicated that the new mining plan will feature a smaller footprint and will be filed with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before the end of 2017.
Thiessen said the project is located “in the middle of nowhere.” However, published reports have indicated that opponents are not about to give up the fight to have it stopped.
“In any configuration, the mine is too big and will be located in too important of a location,’’ said Jason Metrokin, President and CEO of The Bristol Bay Native Corp., which opposes development. “It poses unacceptable risks to the salmon resources and, consequently, the subsistence lifestyle and economic interests of our shareholders,’’ he said.
Based in Anchorage, Alaska, Bristol Bay Native Corp. is a for-profit corporation with approximately 9,900 Alaska Native shareholders comprised of Eskimo, Aleut, and Aboriginal descent. It is one of 13 Alaska Native Regional Corporations created under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971.
Northern Dynasty has indicated that it is moving quickly to gain a new joint venture partner but there is as yet no indication as to who this will be.