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Northern Dynasty calls EPA's Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment process 'biased and manipulative'


June 05, 2013

(SitNews) - Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. has filed a 205-page submission with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in response to its call for public comments on the revised draft Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment (BBWA), calling the draft report and process to complete it 'biased, manipulative and contrary to EPA's own guidelines.'

Northern Dynasty is a mineral exploration and development company based in Vancouver, Canada, which holds indirect interests in over 500 sq. miles of mineral claims in southwest Alaska, USA. Northern Dynasty's principal asset is a 50% interest in the Pebble Partnership, owner of the Pebble Project.

The Pebble deposit is remarkable for both its size and composition. The current resource estimate includes 5.94 billion tonnes in the measured and indicated category containing 55 billion pounds of copper, 67 million ounces of gold and 3.3 billion pounds of molybdenum; and 4.84 billion tonnes in the inferred category, containing 26 billion pounds of copper, 40 million ounces of gold and 2.3 billion pounds of molybdenum. Quantities of silver, palladium and rhenium also occur in the deposit.

Northern Dynasty President & CEO Ronald Thiessen said the 2013 draft BBWA released in April suffers from the same major shortcomings as the original report published in May 2012 - in particular, that EPA continues to assess the environmental effects of a hypothetical mine of its own invention, one that does not employ modern engineering standards, environmental safeguards or project-specific mitigation measures and could not be permitted under U.S. or Alaska law.

Thiessen stated in a news release, although EPA's 'hypothetical mine' is sited at the location of the Pebble deposit, Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment authors continue to refuse to consider the most extensive scientific data set available on the region - environmental baseline data collected by the Pebble Limited Partnership (the "Pebble Partnership" or "PLP") at a cost of some $150 million. The failure to fully consider PLP's environmental data is contrary to EPA's own guidelines for data quality, and is compounded by the fact that BBWA study authors have never set foot on the Pebble Project site.

"The Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment process has truly become the theatre of the absurd," Thiessen said. "Rather than waiting for the Pebble Partnership to submit a proposed development plan for consideration by federal and state regulatory agencies under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), something that is expected to occur this year, EPA has invented its own hypothetical mine, it has continued to ignore modern mine engineering practices and regulatory requirements, it has shunned the best available scientific and environmental data at its disposal, and it has created a public and peer review process designed to minimize scientific scrutiny of its work."

Thiessen said, "We believe the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment process to be a cynical effort to manipulate public perception about a project before it has been proposed or undergone federal and state permitting. And we believe the draft BBWA to be a fundamentally biased report that should have no bearing on the future of America's most important undeveloped mineral resource."

Northern Dynasty's letter to EPA Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe states the federal agency has further failed to provide for an open, objective and transparent public and scientific review of the 2013 draft BBWA by unnecessarily restricting public comment opportunities on a 1,300+ page document and restricting public access to its Peer Review Panel, ignoring the agency's own guidelines for scientific peer review.

"While unprecedented, Northern Dynasty said at the outset of the BBWA process that EPA's study could have served a valuable purpose for project stakeholders and the people of southwest Alaska if it provided an objective, science-based assessment of the true risks and opportunities associated with modern mine development in the region prior to the onset of project permitting," Thiessen said. "Unfortunately in its current form, the BBWA is not an objective, science-based assessment but a demonstrably flawed and biased document now being used to substantial effect by the anti-development community to manipulate public and political opinion about one of America's greatest assets, the Pebble Project."

Other materials submitted by Northern Dynasty to EPA include:

  • a summary report with numerous examples that demonstrate how BBWA study authors have distorted the potential effects of a mine designed and operated to modern engineering standards on the natural resources of Bristol Bay, relating to study methodology, steady state mine operations and range of failure scenarios;
  • a summary of independent peer review reports on seven studies prepared by environmental organizations and anti-Pebble activists, all of which figure prominently in the 2013 draft BBWA. Although commissioned by EPA, assumedly to bolster the scientific credibility of the activists' studies, the peer reviewers instead highlight significant problems with scientific methodology and highly questionable or wholly inadequate conclusions;
  • a summary of EPA's failure in the 2013 BBWA report to meaningfully address criticisms that the 'hypothetical mine' evaluated in the original draft does not employ modern engineering standards, as outlined in a report from Geosyntec Consultants (2012 and 2013), and directed by Dr. Michael Kavanaugh , a registered professional engineer and member of the National Academy of Engineering with 39 years of experience in water quality and groundwater restoration; and
  • a report on well-established and time-proven fish habitat rehabilitation, mitigation and enhancement practices and opportunities, which demonstrates the extensive opportunities to enhance fish habitat productivity in the Pebble Project area as part of project development. This report clearly contradicts the BBWA's unfounded conclusion that mitigation for potential fish habitat impacts associated with Pebble is not possible.

"The Pebble Project represents far too important a resource for the Bristol Bay region, the State of Alaska and the United States to have its fate decided by a biased and manipulative study," Thiessen said, citing the 15,000 US jobs and $2.4 billion-plus annual GDP contribution forecast in a recent economic impact study of the Pebble Project.

Thiessen said, "Given the national significance of the project and the significant shortcomings of the 2013 BBWA draft, we remain confident that future development of Pebble will ultimately be determined by federal and state regulators working within the objective NEPA permitting process to enforce the robust environmental protection standards of the United States and Alaska."

The Pebble Project is an initiative of the Pebble Partnership to responsibly develop a globally significant copper, gold and molybdenum deposit in southwest Alaska into a modern, long-life mine, which will benefit not only the proponent, its partners and the people and culture of the State of Alaska, but also industries, suppliers and consultants locally and in the Lower 48 United States of America. The project is located 200 miles southwest of Anchorage on state land designated for mineral exploration and development. It is situated in a region of rolling tundra approximately 1,000 feet above sea-level, 65 miles from tidewater on Cook Inlet and presents favourable conditions for successful mine site and infrastructure development.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a revised version of the Bristol Bay Assessment for peer review follow-up and for public comment on April 26, 2013. The public comment period was originally scheduled to end May 31, 2013; however the comment period has been extended until June 30, 2013.

Comments may be submitted online, by email or in writing. 3,264 comments have been submitted to date.


How to Submit Your Comments to the EPA

(Preferred method) Submit online at: Specify Docket #EPA-HQ-ORD-2013-0189.

Send an email to Include EPA-HQ-ORD-2013-0189 in the subject line.

Fax comment to (202) 566-9744. Include EPA-HQ-ORD-2013-0189 in the subject line.

Send a letter to EPA Bristol Bay docket at:

Office of Environmental Information
(Mail Code: 28221T)
Docket #EPA-HQ-ORD-2013-0189
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Washington, DC 20460


Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews

On the Web:

Read Other People's Comments - Read public comments on the revised draft assessment that have been submitted to the website!docketDetail;D=EPA-HQ-ORD-2013-0189

EPA's Revised Draft Assessment of the potential impacts of large-scale mining development on Bristol Bay fisheries and wildlife, and on Alaska Native cultures of the region.


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Northern Dynasty


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