Northern Dynasty is focused on designing, permitting, building and operating the Pebble Project. The Company’s goals were to secure a project partner(1) and initiate permitting by the end of 2017, with a project that is smaller than previously contemplated.
More than US$750 million(2) has been invested in the Pebble Project to date. Advances include:
- delineation of an estimated mineral resource totalling 6.5 billion tonnes in measured and indicated and 4.5 billion tonnes in inferred categories;
- more than 10 years and over US$150 million spent on environmental and socioeconomic studies to support project design and permitting;
- technical and engineering studies for mine site facilities and project infrastructure; and
- investment in workforce and business development, stakeholder consultation and community programs.
The Pebble Project must satisfy permitting requirements at three levels: federal, state and local (borough). The process will involve some 11 regulatory agencies, 60+ categories of permits and significant ongoing opportunities for public involvement. This process will be led by the US Army Corps of Engineers (the “Corps of Engineers”).
The first step in the permitting process is for the Pebble Partnership to provide the required documentation to apply for a 404 wetlands permit under the Clean Water Act, including a Project Description and the Environmental Baseline Document, which will trigger an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The EIS will be prepared by a third-party contractor under the direction of the Corps of Engineers. Pebble submitted its permit documentation in late December 2017.
In January 2018, the US Army Corps of Engineers gave notice that the Project Description was deemed complete. The Project Description is available as Attachment D on the Corps of Engineers website at http://www.poa.usace.army.mil/Missions/Regulatory/Public-Notices-Section-Homepage/.
The Pebble EIS will determine whether sufficient evaluation of the project's environmental effects and development alternatives has been undertaken. It will also provide the basis for federal, state and local government agencies to make individual permitting decisions.
The Alaska Department of Natural Resources Large Mine Permitting Team is responsible for coordinating state permitting activities for large mine projects within the state.
To satisfy permitting requirements under NEPA and other regulatory statutes, the Pebble Partnership must provide:
- a comprehensive project design and operating plan for mine-site and infrastructure facilities;
- documentation of development alternatives investigated;
- mitigation and compensation strategies; and
- environmental monitoring, reclamation and closure plans.
Steps and estimated timelines for permitting are shown in the accompanying chart.
(1) The likelihood of a partnering transaction is subject to risks related to the satisfactory completion of due diligence and negotiations, including finalization of definitive agreements and fulfilment of conditions precedent therein, including receipt of all necessary approvals. Such process may not be successfully completed on terms satisfactory to Northern Dynasty.
(2) Of this, approximately $595 million (US$573 million) was provided by a wholly-owned subsidiary of Anglo American plc (“Anglo American”) which participated in the Pebble Partnership from 2007 to 2013, and the remainder was financed by Northern Dynasty. A major part of the expenditures during the period 2007 to 2013 were on exploration programs, resource estimates, environmental data collection and technical studies, with a significant portion spent on engineering of various possible mine development models, as well as related infrastructure, power and transportation systems. The technical and engineering studies that were completed relating to mine-site and infrastructure development are not considered to be current or necessarily representative of management’s current understanding of the most likely development scenario for the Project. Accordingly, the Company is uncertain whether it can realize significant value from this prior work. Environmental baseline studies and data, as well as geological information from exploration, remain important information available to the Company from this period in continuing its advancement of the Project.