Mining

Cohen Group questions EPA’s Pebble process

Former Maine Senator and Defense Secretary William Cohen agrees with Pebble Limited Partnership on at least one point: the Environmental Protection Agency’s Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment is not an adequate document to replace the federal environmental permitting process.

Pebble contracted Cohen to review the procedure the EPA used to develop the assessment, which is the document the agency has based its Clean Water Act Section 404(c) proposed determination on.

BC, Alaska to draft MOU for mine processes

JUNEAU — The province of British Columbia and the State of Alaska will draft a memorandum of understanding regarding mines proposed for and located in transboundary watersheds in British Columbia, BC Minister of Energy and Mines William “Bill” Bennett and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallot announced Wednesday at a press conference.

Judge blocks Obama administration regulation on waterways

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A federal judge in North Dakota on Thursday blocked a new Obama administration rule that would give the federal government jurisdiction over some smaller waterways just hours before it was set to go into effect.

U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson in Fargo issued a temporary injunction against a the rule that would have given the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers authority over some streams, tributaries and wetlands under the Clean Water Act. The rule was scheduled to take effect Friday.

BC, Alaska to draft MOU for mine processes

JUNEAU — The province of British Columbia and the State of Alaska will draft a memorandum of understanding regarding mines proposed for and located in transboundary watersheds in British Columbia, BC Minister of Energy and Mines William “Bill” Bennett and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallot announced Wednesday at a press conference.

DNR hears arguments for Chuitna tributary water rights

A small creek is causing big trouble for Chuitna mine developers and the Alaska Department of Natural Resources.

The Alaska Department of Natural Resources, or DNR, heard arguments Aug. 21 from Chuitna Citizens Coalition, Cook Inletkeeper, the Alaska Center for the Environment, and PacRim Coal in the latest installment of a lengthy and contentious permitting process for a proposed coalmine in the Chuitna River drainage.

BC minister talks transboundary mine issues

JUNEAU — British Columbia Minister of Energy and Mines William “Bill” Bennett, on a four-day trip to Southeast Alaska, said after visiting the Tulsequah Chief Mine on Aug. 24 that the pollution the defunct mine has been draining into the Taku River watershed for decades should be fixed.

Greens Creek, Kensington mines expanding production

Minerals prices are still low but Alaska’s producing mines are doing well, for the most part.

Two underground mines near Juneau, the Greens Creek Mine on northern Admiralty Island and the Kensington Mine at Berner’s Bay north of the capital city, both showed increases in production and improved efficiency.

Hecla Mining Co., which owns Greens Creek, said production of silver at the mine was up 10 percent in the second quarter of 2015 compared with the same period of 2014.

What will exploration permit ruling mean for industry?

The mining industry is waiting for the Department of Natural Resources to chart a path forward after an Alaska Supreme Court ruling that could change permitting procedures and require public notice for exploration work.

Two months after the ruling in the case over Pebble Limited Partnership exploration permits went against the State of Alaska, it is still unclear exactly what the state will do to respond.

Federal judge allows Pebble case against EPA to continue

Pebble Limited Partnership’s lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency will continue as a federal judge denied the agency’s motion to dismiss June 4.

U.S. Alaska District Court Judge H. Russel Holland concluded that while the EPA may not have established the three “anti-mine” groups as described by Pebble in its complaint — the Anti-Mine Coalition, Scientists and Assessment Team — agency staff could have utilized them to draft the pending determination to block development of Pebble’s copper and gold claims near Bristol Bay.

Judge allows Pebble case against EPA to continue

Pebble Limited Partnership’s lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency will continue as a federal judge Thursday morning denied the agency’s motion to dismiss.

U.S. Alaska District Court Judge H. Russel Holland concluded that while the EPA may not have established the three “anti-mine” groups as described by Pebble in its complaint — the Anti-Mine Coalition, Scientists and Assessment Team — agency staff could have utilized them to draft the pending determination to block development of Pebble’s copper and gold claims near Bristol Bay.

Dismissal arguments heard in Pebble-EPA case

Pebble Limited Partnership and the Environmental Protection Agency argued in court May 28 whether the agency violated federal law in developing the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment, which is the basis for its effort to block Pebble mine.

The oral arguments on the EPA’s motion to dismiss Pebble’s lawsuit were heard in Alaska U.S. District Court by Judge H. Russel Holland.

Exploration payrolls down as producing mines add jobs

Minerals employment and industry spending dropped in 2014 compared with 2013 and 2012 but the decline is attributed mostly to sharp declines in expenditures for exploration.

The state’s larger producing mines added jobs in all three years, according to the latest minerals industry economic report by McDowell Group.

The report was recently released by the Alaska Miners Association. McDowell Group is a Juneau-based economic research firm. 

Groundhog Day for mining controversy in Southwest AK

Is another mining controversy stirring in Southwest Alaska?

Nondalton’s tribal council is protesting the move of its village corporation, Kijik Corp., to form a joint venture with Anchorage-based Alaska Earth Sciences to explore a copper/gold deposit near the village and adjacent to the Pebble project.

Pebble Partnership vs. the EPA — a yearlong conflict

The legal sparring between Pebble Limited Partnership and the Environmental Protection Agency drew headlines throughout the year.

It began right away Jan. 15 when the EPA released its Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment, a 1,000-page report three years in the making, which concluded that a large surface mine in the upper reaches of the Bristol Bay watershed would cause significant harm to the region’s dynamic salmon fisheries.

Pebble has maintained a stance that the assessment is a seriously flawed document based on biased science.

Federal judge orders EPA to halt pending Pebble action

The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to block Pebble mine is on hold after a Nov. 24 federal court ruling.

U.S. Alaska District Court Judge H. Russel Holland ordered a preliminary injunction be put in place on the EPA’s Clean Water Act Section 404(c) process in the Bristol Bay region.

The ruling came immediately after oral arguments on a motion for the injunction filed by Pebble Limited Partnership in its lawsuit against the EPA.

Record crowd expected at miners convention

The annual Alaska Miners Association convention will set another attendance record this year with about 1,000 signed up to attend so far, AMA Executive Director Deantha Crockett said.

It is also marks the 75th anniversary of the AMA, making it one of the state’s oldest trade and professional organizations. The AMA was organized in 1939 to give the mining industry, then one of the territory’s two industries (the other being fishing) a way to present a united front in dealing with new land policies being formed in Washington, D.C.

Not much has changed, Crockett said.

Pebble sues EPA over attempt to veto mine

The Pebble Limited Partnership took the Environmental Protection Agency to court May 21 and claimed the agency is illegally overstepping its bounds by attempting to block a mine before the permitting process begins.

In a statement released in conjunction with Pebble’s complaint filed in U.S. Alaska District Court, company CEO Tom Collier said the plea to the court to stop EPA’s actions is not an attempt to strip the agency of its regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act. Rather, he said, it is an attempt to ensure guidelines set by Congress are followed.

Pebble cites EPA emails were biased

Pebble mine developers claim they have proof Environmental Protection Agency officials acted with bias and a pre-determined mindset when examining the potential risks a mine could pose to Bristol Bay fisheries.

Exploration off 38%, producing mines strong

JUNEAU — Mining is good for Alaska’s economy, but while the state’s six producing mines are holding up well, and some even expanding, a sharp 38 percent drop in exploration spending last year is having ripple effects.

Overall, mining employed 4,600 Alaskans directly last year and the overall employment impact totaled 9,100 including indirect jobs created by the spending. Direct payrolls of mining companies totaled $630 million in 2013.

DNR ordered to rule on Chuitna apps

A state Superior Court judge ruled Oct. 14 that the Department of Natural Resources cannot ignore water reservation applications filed by the Chuitna Citizens Coalition.

The coalition applied for three instream flow reservations on the Western Cook Inlet Chuitna River for fish and wildlife protection in 2009. After more than two years of inactivity on the applications, the Chuitna Citizens Coalition and environmental advocator group Cook Inletkeeper filed a joint lawsuit against DNR in November 2011.

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