ANCHORAGE, Alaska, July 24 (Reuters) - The Trump
administration on Friday proposed approving a permit for a
Canadian-owned company to build a copper and gold mine near a
cherished Alaska salmon fishery, boosting a project the Obama
administration tried to block on environmental grounds.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released its final
environmental impact statement on the Pebble Mine, owned by
Canada's Northern Dynasty Minerals, that would allow
construction of the mine and associated developments, including
an 82-mile (132-km) road system.
That paves the way for a final decision on the project in as
little as 30 days.
During the Obama administration, the project opposed by the
fishing industry, Alaska Natives, and environmentalists appeared
dead. The administration tried to prevent permitting for Pebble
construction after a study it launched concluded the mine would
irreparably damage the salmon-rich habitat, and the people and
wildlife that depend on it.
But the Pebble Limited Partnership said the Corps' analysis
showed such fears were unfounded.
"After a lengthy misinformation campaign many were led to
believe a mine at Pebble would harm the fishery," said Tom
Collier, chief executive of the Pebble Limited Partnership.
"Todays report ... turns that lie on its head returning
salmon wont be harmed, subsistence fishing wont be harmed, and
the commercial fishing industry wont be harmed," he said.
Project opponents disagreed.
"For the Army Corps to rubber-stamp a massive toxic open-pit
mine in the headwaters of a national food source just doesnt
make sense, said Andy Wink, executive director of the Bristol
Bay Regional Seafood Development Association.
The proposed road is a change from the original plan
submitted by the Pebble Limited Partnership. The company wanted
to access the mine using icebreakers to cross Alaskas largest
lake, but the Corps determined a road skirting the north side of
the lake was the "least environmentally damaging practicable
Native organizations that own land along the route have
vowed to prevent Pebble from using it, which could tie the
project up in legal wrangling.
(Additional reporting by Reporting by Arunima Kumar in
Bengaluru; Editing by Richard Valdmanis, Jonathan Oatis and Tom