Northern Alaska Environmental Center Will Withdraw Permit Appeal
May 06, 2004
Alaska Governor Frank Murkowski said Wednesday that he is pleased that the Northern Alaska Environmental Center and Teck-Pogo Inc. have come to an agreement under which the Center will withdraw its appeal of the mine's EPA permit, allowing work to resume on mine construction. The Pogo mine is being developed northwest of Delta Junction.
"This is a great day for Fairbanks and Delta Junction. I am pleased that an agreement has been reached between the Center and Teck-Pogo that will allow work to proceed and avoid the layoffs of hundreds of workers, which would have occurred had the appeal not been withdrawn," Murkowski said. "I want to thank those who negotiated this agreement, particularly Commissioner Tom Irwin and our DNR mining permit team, and EPA, who worked through the night with Teck-Pogo and the Center. And I appreciate the strong resolve shown by Interior legislators to end this impasse."
The agreement provides that the Center will withdraw its appeal of the NPDES permit. In exchange, Teck-Pogo has agreed to provide additional monitoring of the Goodpaster River. Teck also agreed to put a stakeholder group in place to review the project. "This is similar to the Regional Advisory Councils I proposed for Prince William Sound and Cook Inlet after the oil spill," Gov. Murkowski said.
The Governor said restoration of 500 construction jobs and 300 mining operations jobs were a key component of his natural resource/economic development plan for the state. He encouraged Teck to continue to maintain Alaska hire.
"I appreciate the concern shown by the Northern Alaska Environmental Center on this project, and I appreciate their expressed support for the mine project to move forward," Gov. Murkowski said.
U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Ted Stevens also applauded the work of the State of Alaska's Department of Natural Resources, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Teck-Cominco negotiators to convince the Northern Alaska Environmental Center to withdraw their administrative appeal of an EPA permit for the Pogo gold mine. This decision comes after days of mediated discussions between the Center, State of Alaska Department of Natural Resources officials, the EPA and Teck-Cominco, Pogo's owner.
"I'm glad the voice of reason has prevailed. This is great news for Fairbanks and all of Alaska. It is good that Alaskans can go back to work on developing one of the premier mines in the state. These high-value jobs were just too important to be disrupted when there clearly were good ways to solve the environmental concerns expressed by some," said Senator Murkowski this afternoon.
"This decision by the Northern Alaska Environmental Center to withdraw their appeal is the right one," said Senator Stevens. "The Center and representatives from the EPA, the Department of Natural Resources and Teck-Cominco have worked hard to resolve their differences to ensure that Pogo will move forward, bringing significant jobs and development opportunities to the Interior," he said.
Construction on Pogo Mine was halted when the Northern Alaska Environmental Center unexpectedly filed an administrative appeal to a water discharge permit that the EPA issued for the mine. The appeal caused Teck-Cominco, Ltd. to halt construction of the mine and to begin laying off the 500 construction employees on site.
Representative Nick Stepovich (R-Fairbanks), a member of the Alaska Legislature, was pleased with the outcome. "This resolution is consistent with my written request on April 26th and the numerous communications I have had with the principal stakeholders. I am happy to see that the parties involved could reach an agreement that moves this project forward and puts Alaskans back to work."
Hundreds of Alaskans will go back to work and millions of dollars will be spent in the Delta and Fairbanks economies. The withdrawal of the appeal comes less than a month after it was filed, and will provide Teck-Pogo Inc. the certainty necessary to proceed with project construction.
Representative Stepovich went on to say, "I stand united with the numerous Alaskans who showed their support for the Pogo Mine. The importance of this project was evident by the protests, numerous letters to the editors, articles and ads in the media, and the many phone calls and emails we received. The message from the public was loud and clear; open the mine. The message to the public is that responsible resource development is alive and well in Alaska, and Alaskans are going back to work."
The Pogo Mine is expected to
produce an average of 400,000 ounces of gold a year over an 11-year
life span. The mine is a joint venture between operator Teck-Cominco,
Ltd. and Sumitomo Metal Mining Co. The mine is estimated to be
worth $2.2 billion.
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