Walker asks to suspend Pebble environmental impact statement process

In this 2011 photo, an exploration camp sits on top of the Pebble deposit, one of the largest undeveloped copper, gold and molybdenum deposits in the world. (Photo courtesy U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)
In this 2011 photo, an exploration camp sits on top of the Pebble deposit, one of the largest undeveloped copper, gold and molybdenum deposits in the world. (Photo courtesy U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

Gov. Bill Walker asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to suspend the environmental impact statement process for the proposed Pebble Mine.

In a letter to the Army Corps on Friday, Walker and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallot contend that Pebble Limited Partnership has yet to present a “feasible and realistic” project.

For the Corps to fully consider all alternatives in the draft impact statement, they recommend a preliminary economic assessment, at minimum, and preferably a pre-feasibility study.

Walker believes the project needs to catch up to the process.

“The Corps of Engineers is evaluating all the options on Pebble Mine,” Walker said. “We want to make sure that there’s sufficient opportunity for input on the actual project itself, and we felt that it wasn’t far enough along to really warrant this review. I think it’s appropriate for them to look at suspending the permit until the information sort of catches up.”

The letter was submitted on the final day of the statement scoping period. The next step is for the Corps to decide, Walker said.

“Really, the next step is — we don’t necessarily have one administratively, ourselves, that I’m aware of,” he said. “But really, the ball’s in their court at this point — how they’re going to respond to the information they’ve received.”

Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation CEO Norman Van Vactor called the decision “fantastic.”

The corporation has long opposed the mining project.

In a news release, Pebble Limited Partnership CEO Tom Collier said that the purpose of the Corps’ statement process is to evaluate Pebble’s potential environmental impact, including whether it would be able to operate without harming the region’s salmon habitat.

He said that the governor’s request to suspend this process was unclear and Collier says he sees it as a “stall tactic.”