VANCOUVER – Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. [NDM-TSX; NAK-NYSE American] reported that the April 25, 2023, action by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Pacific Ocean Division to remand the permit decision back to the USACE (Alaska District) is a strong win for the company’s Pebble project, southwest Alaska.
“We have been saying that the record of decision (ROD) process was not fairly conducted since 2020 and are pleased to see that the review officer has raised similar concerns on many substantive issues,” said Ron Thiessen, president and CEO. “The two major areas for the negative ROD decision, namely the deemed non-compliance of our comprehensive mitigation plan (CMP) and the public interest review (PIR), were highlighted by the review officer as areas where the district did not carry out the proper process in arriving at its decision. This remand decision is a strong win for the project because it brings these issues to light and directs the district to address them, potentially setting the stage for a much different outcome.”
As quoted in Section II.A (page 27) of the remand document: “… Specifically, the district should provide complete and detailed comments to the appellant on the compensatory mitigation plan allowing the appellant sufficient time to address those comments prior to finalizing a revised mitigation plan review. The district should also note that if a compensatory mitigation plan is determined acceptable and adequately offsets direct and indirect impacts, a new PIR and 404(b)(1) analysis may be required.”
Thiessen continued: “The review officer has clearly demonstrated that the CMP process was flawed. The administrative record does not show that we were given sufficient instruction, feedback or time to remedy the plan in order to have a chance of success. If we are given the opportunity to provide a new CMP that meets the requirements, it could remove the significant degradation finding, which, in turn, could have a cascading effect on the PIR and compliance with the Clean Water Act.”
Additionally, as part of the PIR analysis, the review officer pointed out that the district was wrong to consider potential catastrophic impacts of a tailings storage facility failure as a reason for its permit denial because the final environmental impact study (FEIS) clearly found that the Pebble tailings storage facility design did not present any reasonably foreseeable failure risks.
It is interesting to note the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in its final determination specifically refers to the risk of tailings failure to justify its decision, despite the FEIS saying that this is not reasonably foreseeable. This contradiction will need to be explained.
As a result of the remand decision and in light of the EPA’s final determination, the district has been instructed to review the appeal decision and to notify the parties how it plans to proceed in the next 45 days.
Northern Dynasty’s principal asset, owned through its wholly owned Alaska-based U.S. subsidiary, Pebble LP, is a 100% interest in a contiguous block of 1,840 mineral claims in southwest Alaska, including the Pebble deposit, located 200 miles from Anchorage and 125 miles from Bristol Bay.