Alaska’s proposed Pebble mine hit a last-minute hiccup heading into the New Year as permits that were set to expire and be redrawn have instead been extended for ninety days—leaving the future of the project in limbo. The state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) called for the delay in order to field a flood of public concern regarding site-specific pollution already said to be tainting Bristol Bay.
So it begins. Under current permits, more than 1,300 exploratory bore holes have been sunk into the tundra surrounding the world’s holy grail of sockeye salmon production. A recently released Center for Science in Public Participation study alleges some of those holes, or wells, have been leaking contaminants. Needing to digest more than 1,000 comments submitted on the issue, DNR called for a timeout lasting until March 31, 2017.
What does another three months buy? In theory, an extended review process gives DNR the ability to tighten environmental restrictions on land use and maintenance of the current sites, leaving the Pebble folks reaching for the empty Advil bottle.
Northern Dynasty, however, claims it has complied with all regulations in its quest to one-day-soon tap Bristol Bay's massive gold and copper deposits. The current extension also carries into the opening days of the Trump administration. Mine officials say they’re hopeful they'll receive the "You betcha" they need to proceed.