Anchorage, AK- Alaska Journal of Commerce.
“The long-anticipated draft EIS for the Pebble mine project is expected in January from the Army Corps of Engineers. Corps Pebble project manager Shane McCoy said in a November briefing on the work that the draft EIS will evaluate three development alternatives in addition to the requisite “no-action” option.
However, because of the large scope of the project — infrastructure including 35 miles of roads, a subsea natural gas pipeline, a ferry across Iliamna Lake and a major port — the EIS will have multiple “sub-alternatives” for the mine’s support infrastructure, according to McCoy.
The draft Pebble EIS will touch on, but not delve into, one of the primary concerns held by those who oppose the project, McCoy said.
The Army Corps of Engineers is primarily tasked with adjudicating Pebble’s Clean Water Act Section 404 wetlands fill application — a construction permit. As such, evaluating the likelihood of and potential consequences from a mine waste release is not in the Corps’ purview. That is a job for state Dam Safety Program officials and Pebble hasn’t yet applied for its tailings dam permits.
However, McCoy said the Corps conducted a cursory review of spill risks given it was a prominent topic in the comments the agency received during the scoping phase of the EIS.
“We did convene folks together for a very high-level spill risk scenarios that included the folks from Pebble, the folks from the state as well as AECOM’s specialists, but it’s at a much higher level than what would be required for an actual dam permit,” he said.
AECOM is the third-party contractor tasked with compiling the EIS data for the project.
A final Pebble EIS is tentatively scheduled for December of next year.
Additionally, Pebble Limited Partnership spokesman Mike Heatwole said conducting a preliminary economic assessment for the project is on the company’s “to-do list” but it’s not a pressing matter at this point.
Pebble’s opponents have long questioned the economic viability of the mine, particularly the smaller mine plan the company is currently advancing.
Pebble CEO Tom Collier told the Journal in April that he wanted to have an economic analysis of the project published sometime in 2018.
Attempting to permit a large mine before conducting multiple reviews of its economics is a departure from typical mine development processes.
Corps officials have said they would like Pebble to provide them economic information for inclusion in the final EIS, but Heatwole contended it is not a requirement for completing the document.”