Pebble mine permit decision remanded to USACE

A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) decision denying the Pebble Limited Partnership’s proposed mining operations in the Bristol Bay watershed is back under consideration.

USACE officials with the Pacific Ocean Division announced on Tuesday that they have remanded the Alaska District’s Nov. 25, 2020 permit application denial back to USACE officials who had issued

the permit denial.

“My decision to remand the permit application denial back to the Alaska District is not a permit authorization,” said Gen. Kirk Gibbs, the commander of the Pacific Ocean Division. “The district has been asked to re-evaluate specific issues in the administrative record to ensure that the decision is well-supported.” 

The Pebble Limited Partnership (PLP) in January of 2021 challenged the Alaska District’s November 2020 permit application denial. The appeal process is an administrative and stand-alone process, which allows an affected party – PLP – to pursue an administrative appeal of certain USACE decisions with which they disagree.

USACE officials at Fort Shafter, Hawaii said that the administrative appeal was focused solely on review of the administrative record for the denied permit application. The administrative record includes all documents and materials directly or indirectly considered by the decision-maker, including content that is pertinent to the merits of the decision, as well as those that are relevant to the decision-making process.


The Alaska District must now review the appeal decision in light of the EPA’s Final Determination as the District considers its next steps. On Jan. 30, 2023, the EPA issued its Final Determination under section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act, limiting the use of certain waters in the Bristol Bay watershed as disposal sites for certain discharges of dredged or fill material associated with development of a mine at the Pebble Deposit.

“The USACE has recognized that the final decision process for Pebble was not properly undertaken and sent its decision document back to the Alaska District following our appeal over two years ago,” said Mike Heatwole, PLP spokesman. “I am encouraged that some in the federal government recognize the importance of following a fair and established process for reviewing resource projects in Alaska.”

“Our technical and permitting team will now spend some time looking through all the material released today as there is a fair amount to digest,” he said. “We have several issues in motion around the project, and a key current focus for us right now is what next steps we will be taking regarding the EPS’s preemptive veto of the project.”

“BBRSDA supports robust processes to ensure natural resources can be preserved but also utilized to benefit mankind, ideally in a sustainable manner where possible,” said Andy Wink, the executive director of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association (BBRSDA). “The EPA followed a rigorous process that determined the proposed Pebble Mine would have unacceptable adverse effects on wetlands that support abundant salmon runs. Regardless of today’s action by the Army Corps of Engineers, our understanding is that the EPA action precludes the Corps from issuing a permit.”

The remand decision concludes the USACE administrative appeal process, which is independent of the EPA’s Final Determination. 

A copy of the decision document and further information about the USACE regulatory program and appeal process are available at