UPDATE 1-U.S. regulator seeks to block Alaskan mine to protect salmon

Fri Feb 28, 2014 6:49pm EST
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By Julie Gordon

VANCOUVER Feb 28 (Reuters) - U.S. environmental regulators moved on Friday to block development of the Pebble mine in Alaska, which could be one of the largest copper projects in the world, citing potential "irreversible harm" to the state's salmon fishery.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said it has initiated a rarely used process under the Clean Water Act to "identify appropriate options to protect" the Bristol Bay fishery from the impact of the proposed mine.

The decision follows a report in January that found large-scale mining would pose serious risks to salmon and native cultures in the pristine corner of southwest Alaska.

"Extensive scientific study has given us ample reason to believe that the Pebble mine would likely have significant and irreversible negative impacts on the Bristol Bay watershed and its abundant salmon fisheries," EPA administrator Gina McCarthy said in a statement.

"This process is not something the agency does very often, but Bristol Bay is an extraordinary and unique resource."

Shares of Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd, which owns the Pebble project, plunged 29 percent to close at C$1.17 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Friday. The stock has fallen more than 64 percent in the last 12 months.

The Vancouver-based company was swift to condemn the EPA's action, saying the agency is looking to preemptively block the project without allowing it to go through the established permitting and environmental review process.   Continued...