With permit for controversial mine nearly in hand, Pebble CEO says he’s sure opposition will soften

A map from the final Environmental Impact Statement shows the route Pebble and the Corps decided was the best option. (Pebble EIS/Corps of Engineers)

The proposed Pebble Mine upstream from Bristol Bay clears a major regulatory hurdle Friday with the publication of the final environmental impact statement.

Pebble Chief Executive Tom Collier said it’s the most significant day for the project in 15 years.

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“The umpire in this case is the Corps of Engineers, and the Corps of Engineers has looked at this rigorously, and has determined that the project will not damage the fishery,” he said.

A coalition of fishermen, Native organizations and environmental groups that oppose Pebble dispute that. They say the mine does put the fishery at risk. They point to findings in the report that say the mine will impact some 200 miles of streams and 4,000 acres of wetlands. Native corporations that own land along the mine’s transportation corridor say they’ll never grant Pebble permission to use their property.

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Collier said opponents will change their minds as the proposal becomes more real and the economic benefits more certain.

“I have a couple of confidentiality agreements that preclude me from making any specific comments about the status of any negotiations – in fact, even preclude me from saying that I am negotiating with someone,” he said. “But you know, where I stand today, I remain confident that we will be able to get the access we need to build that road.”

The Corps could issue its final decision on permitting as soon as next month.

If the permit is granted, Collier will get a salary bonus of $12.5 million. Collier said two-thirds of that bonus is contingent on the decision holding up in court.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her at lruskin@alaskapublic.org. Read more about Liz here.

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