The US Environmental Protection Agency has removed an obstacle that had stalled progress at the contentious Pebble project.
Northern Dynasty Minerals (TSX:NDM,NYSE:NAK) scored a major win this week when the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) withdrew restrictions related to mining in Alaska. The decision has restarted movement on the company’s Pebble copper-gold project.
The project, set to be a gargantuan asset in Bristol Bay, has faced a great deal of environmental opposition through its developmental journey, including a falling out with First Quantum Minerals (TSX:FM,OTC Pink:FQVLF), which had entered an option agreement to collaborate on Pebble in 2017.
Citing an inability to reach an agreement on the deal, the two companies parted ways on Pebble in 2018, with First Quantum acknowledging the project’s “environmental and social sensitivity.”
The company released a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) surrounding the project in late February, but was ultimately blockaded on further progress by a 2014 proposed determination under the Clean Water Act.
However, as of Tuesday (July 30), the long battle came to an end when the determination was withdrawn by EPA officials.
“By withdrawing the 2014 Proposed Determination, which was issued preemptively and is now outdated, the agency can continue its focus on fulfilling its responsibilities under the Clean Water Act to work with the Army Corps to review the permit,” a statement from the EPA reads.
“Today’s action does not approve Pebble’s permit application or determine a particular outcome in the Corps’ permitting process. Instead, it allows EPA to continue working with the Corps to review the current permit application and engage in the National Environmental Policy Act process.”
Needless to say, Northern Dynasty executives are more than satisfied with the news, stating that the EIS should be finalized early next year with an official decision by mid-2020.
“Today’s announcement means the (EIS) and permitting process for the Pebble project currently being led by the US Army Corps of Engineers may advance to a final Record of Decision in 2020 without the cloud of uncertainty created by EPA’s unprecedented, pre-emptive regulatory action,” Northern Dynasty President and CEO Ron Thiessen said in a statement.
Though the company is still waiting on a permit for the behemoth project, the wheels are back in motion. Northern Dynasty shares surged 48.7 percent following the news on Tuesday, jumping from Monday’s close of C$0.73 to C$1.20.
Referred to by the company as the “world’s largest undeveloped copper and gold resource,” Pebble’s current resource estimate sits at 6.5 billion tonnes in the measured and indicated categories, which includes 57 billion pounds of copper, 71 million ounces of gold, 3.4 billion pounds of molybdenum and 345 million ounces of silver.
As of 3:22 p.m. EDT on Wednesday (July 31) in Toronto, Northern Dynasty’s shares had simmered 14.17 percent to trade at C$1.03 apiece.
As of Tuesday, copper was trading at US$5,942.5 per tonne on the London Metal Exchange.
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Securities Disclosure: I, Olivia Da Silva, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.