UPDATE 1-U.S. EPA pushes ahead with plan to block Alaska copper mine

Fri Jul 18, 2014 6:00pm EDT
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(Adds company response)

By Julie Gordon

July 18 (Reuters) - U.S. environmental regulators laid out proposed protections for Alaska's Bristol Bay watershed on Friday that would effectively block the development of the Pebble deposit, which could be one of the world's largest copper mines.

In a 214-page document posted to its website, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed to restrict the use of certain waters in the region for disposal of dredged or fill material associated with mining the Pebble deposit.

It is the latest step by the agency to use a rare process under the Clean Water Act to try to stop work on the proposed copper-gold mine, which they say would threaten the region's valuable salmon fisheries.

"The science is clear that mining the Pebble deposit would cause irreversible damage to one of the world's last intact salmon ecosystems," said Dennis McLerran, regional administrator for the EPA, in a statement. "Bristol Bay's exceptional fisheries deserve exceptional protection."

Project owner Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd, meanwhile, has sued the EPA for trying to derail development before the company has even applied for its permit or environmental assessment.

The miner called on the agency to refrain from imposing pre-emptive conditions and to allow the project to be reviewed by federal and state authorities, including the EPA, as part of normal environmental review for major developments.

It also pledged to work with the EPA and other agencies to ensure that the mine would be built in a safe manner.   Continued...