Pebble partnership, EPA consider mediation

EPA remains committed to protect Bristol Bay fishery

Attorneys for a proposed large-scale mine near the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed have agreed with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to consider mediation to resolve litigation under the Federal Advisory Committee Act.

While discovery and other preparations for court proceedings in the FACA litigation will continue, the joint notice filed in federal court in late October indicates the willingness of both parties to work toward a negotiated resolution to the current impasse, said Ron Thiessen, president and chief executive officer of Northern Dynasty Minerals, Ltd., in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Northern Dynasty’s wholly owned subsidiary, the Pebble Limited Partnership in Anchorage, is seeking to build the Pebble copper, gold and molybdenum mine.

The Federal Advisory Committee Act of 1972 is the legal foundation defining how federal advisory committees operate. The law places special emphasis on open meetings, chartering, public involvement and reporting.

Northern Dynasty contends that the EPA violated FACA by its interactions with environmental non-government organizations and opponents of the mine in developing the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment and its regulatory action under Section 404 (c) of the Clean Water Act.

Section 404 (c) authorizes the EPA to prohibit, restrict or deny the discharge of dredged or fill materials at defined sites into waters of the United States whenever it determines that such actions would have an unacceptable adverse impact on various resources, including fisheries, wildlife, municipal water supplies or recreational areas.


A spokesperson for Region 10 of the EPA in Seattle said that the EPA “remains committed to protecting the unique and valuable Bristol Bay fishery and way of life and stands behind the process it has started to ensure protection of this watershed.

“EPA also remains open to alternatives to litigation to resolve disputes, including mediation, which the Alaska court requires parties to consider.

“However,” the spokesperson said, “the parties will also be continuing to complete the discovery phase of the litigation during the mediation, so that the case can be resolved as quickly as possible. EPA remains confident regarding the outcome of the litigation.”

Thiessen said that Northern Dynasty and the EPA share a strong conviction that any mine developed at Pebble must meet the highest environmental standards, and protect the fisheries resources of Southwest Alaska, or it should not be permitted.

“We are optimistic that a resolution can now be found through mediation that will allow Pebble to propose a development plan for the project and advance into the federal and state permitting process,” he said.

Others are not so optimistic, including the majority of Bristol Bay residents and Native tribes in the area, and the majority of commercial fishermen who harvest salmon in Bristol Bay.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature, during its World Conservation Congress in Hawaii in September, voiced strong opposition to the Pebble Mine, and urged the US government to deny any permits.

Membership in the World Conservation Congress includes 217 countries and government agencies and more than 1,000 domestic and international non-government organizations who rely on more than 16,000 experts around the world to address significant global threats to conservation.