Mining

More exploration approved at Icy Cape

Alaska Mental Health Trust Land Office officials are spending the winter reviewing the results of last year’s drilling campaign and preparing for another at their Icy Cape heavy mineral prospect.

Those results were promising enough for the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority Board of Trustees to approve $3 million in October to spend on more exploratory drilling next year, according to Trust Land Office Executive Director Wyn Menefee.

State appeals habitat initiative ruling

The ballot initiative proposed to strengthen laws protecting salmon habitat is headed for a supreme resolution, which doesn’t bother the initiative’s primary sponsor.

On Oct. 20 the state Department of Law appealed to the Alaska Supreme Court to have a Superior Court ruling upholding the initiative on constitutional grounds overturned.

Zinc prices help NANA rebound from oil crash

Strong returns from the Red Dog mine are helping NANA Regional Corp. overcome oil and gas industry losses.

NANA CEO Wayne Westlake said in an interview that the Northwest Alaska zinc mine is outpacing production forecasts at a time when zinc prices are high.

The open-pit Red Dog mine sits about 90 miles north of Kotzebue, the largest community in the region.

NANA, the Alaska Native regional corporation for the area, owns the mine that is operated by Vancouver-based Teck Resources Ltd.

Judge overturns Mallott on salmon habitat proposal

Alaskans seeking more protections for the state’s salmon notched a victory Oct. 9 when a Superior Court ruling overturned Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott’s denial of a ballot initiative to overhaul permitting laws for projects in and around salmon-bearing waters.

Judge Mark Rindner wrote in a 20-page order that the salmon habitat initiative does not prescribe how countless miles of state rivers and wetlands be used, but rather simply regulates the quality of that water while it is in use.

CEO unveils Pebble 2.0

Pebble Limited Partnership has finally done one of the things it has long been criticized for not doing: the company released an actual mine plan.

CEO Tom Collier discussed the major points of the plan Oct. 5 at a Resource Development Council for Alaska meeting in Anchorage.

Habitat initiative proponents argue appeal in Superior Court

Is there discretion in the term “significant adverse effects?”

That is the question at the center of the court debate over a ballot initiative aimed at reforming Alaska’s permitting laws to better protect salmon habitat from large development projects.

The Department of Law doesn’t think so, and Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth Bakalar stressed as much during about 90 minutes of oral arguments Oct. 3 in Anchorage for Stand for Salmon’s appeal of Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott’s rejection of the initiative, which was based on a Department of Law recommendation.

Ballot measure would give greater say to ADFG

Alaska fishing groups concerned about the impacts that large-scale development projects could have on salmon habitat are pushing to reform the state’s permitting requirements through a voter initiative on the 2018 ballot.

Bristol Bay study stands, but EPA moves to halt its finding

Is Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt just putting the shoe on the other foot?

The EPA announced July 11 that it was starting the process to withdraw the proposed determination reached under President Barack Obama’s administration to prohibit large-scale mining in Bristol Bay — a roundabout way of saying the Pebble mine project.

A 90-day public comment period on the proposed withdrawal is now open through Oct. 17.

GUEST COMMENTARY: Infrastructure plan could be stymied by lack of key resources

Recently, President Trump announced a $1 trillion plan to fix the nation’s roads, bridges, dams, and airports. And while Congressional approval may hinge on the specifics of funding these projects, Americans should be concerned with whether the country can obtain sufficient metals and minerals to undertake such a large effort.

Pebble, EPA reach court settlement

Pebble Limited Partnership and the Environmental Protection Agency have agreed to walk away from the courtroom, with Pebble getting to keep its project alive and the EPA holding on to its critical Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment.

Red Dog mine owner Teck reaches tax deal with borough

A contentious dispute over taxes is close to resolution between Teck Alaska, operator of the Red Dog Mine north of Kotzebue and the North West Arctic Borough.

A new payment-in-lieu-of-tax, or PILT, has been agreed to by Teck and borough administrators, and is expected to be approved by the North West Arctic Borough assembly. It would result in payments to the borough ranging from $18 million to $26 million per year for 10 years.

According to Teck’s annual financial filing, the new PILT will be about 30 percent larger than the last agreement.

Minerals prices rebounding, but jobs still off from 2012 highs

Alaska saw a dip in mining jobs during 2016, numbers attributed to losses in the oil patch as well as hard rock mines when commodities prices took a dive.

Employment numbers are tallied in different ways by various agencies. Alaska Department of Labor statistics show Alaska went from 17,400 mining jobs in 2015 to 14,200 jobs in 2016.

That number lumped in petroleum jobs, said Alaska Economist Neal Fried, with “mom and pop” placer mines and large entities such as Usibelli coal.

Habitat bill draws attention, but won’t get vote this year

JUNEAU — It is already being dubbed, “fish first, nothing else.”

Reps. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, and Andy Josephson, D-Anchorage, have introduced a bill that would set up a new fisheries habitat permitting system, to be administered by the state Department of Fish and Game, for construction projects that affect waterways.

Critics say the legislation would add serious burdens to environmental permit systems that are complicated enough, and set standards that many development projects will be unable to meet.

DNR approves Pebble permit, with conditions

Natural Resources Commissioner Andy Mack approved Pebble Limited Partnership’s long-awaited land-use permit April 11 with stipulations that include a $2 million bond to backstop exploration cleanup.

The permit is for 12 months; Pebble had sought a permit through 2018.

Pebble applied for the miscellaneous land-use permit, or MLUP, last Oct. 13. MLUP approval for most activities is often little more than a formality, but next to nothing about Pebble is normal either, from the size of the project to the fervor it generates.

PacRim owners shelve Chuitna coal mine plans

PacRim Coal’s plan for a 12.5 million-tons per year export coal mine has been put on hold, very likely ending work to develop the mine that has spanned decades.

PacRim, an affiliate of Dallas-based Hunt Oil Co., has withdrawn from a lengthy quest for regulatory approvals for its Chuitna Coal Project, a spokesman said.

The project is in the Beluga coalfields on the west side of Cook Inlet, 50 miles west of Anchorage.

Graphite mining company considering plant on peninsula

Kenai, Homer and Seward are up for consideration as sites for a new graphite processing plant.

A Vancouver-based company is working on plans to develop Alaska’s sole graphite find, located on the Seward Peninsula about 37 miles north of Nome. Part of the development plan includes a value-added manufacturing facility to process the raw graphite from the mine into coated spherical graphite for lithium-ion electric vehicles batteries and other products.

Pebble, EPA pushing to settle lawsuit

With the sides reportedly closing in on a settlement, an Alaska federal judge agreed to hit pause on Pebble Limited Partnership’s lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency one more time.

On March 20 U.S. District Court of Alaska Judge H. Russel Holland signed an order to stay proceedings in the suit until May 4, the deadline by which he expects Pebble and the EPA to have reached a deal to close the case, the order states.

Permitting process starts for Ambler road

Development of the Ambler Mining District road project is now in federal hands.

The Bureau of Land Management issued a Federal Register notice Feb. 28 requesting public input regarding what topics the agency should consider in drafting the environmental impact statement, or EIS, for the mining access road.

Northern Dynasty calls critical report ‘misleading’

The owners of the Pebble mine project fired back Friday against claims from a New York stock investment firm that the prospect is not economically or politically viable.

Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. called the Feb. 14 report from Kerrisdale Capital Management — which holds a short position in Northern Dynasty and could benefit from its stock value dropping — “unfounded” and “unsupported speculation.”

Report: Pebble shares are ‘worthless’

A New York investment firm tore apart claims by the owners of the Pebble mine project that developing the prospect is economically viable in a no-holds-barred report released Feb. 14.

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