Anglo American to spend $80 million advancing proposed Pebble Mine – by Laurel Andrews (Alaska Dispatch – April 22, 2013)

The Pebble Partnership plans to spend $80 million this year on advancing its proposed mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay.

The proposed Pebble Mine, 200 miles southwest of Anchorage, is estimated to hold 81 billion pounds of copper, 107 million ounces of gold and 5 billion pounds of molybdenum, and is said to be one of the largest such deposits in the world. However, the location of the proposed massive open-pit mine — near the breeding grounds of the fertile Bristol Bay salmon fishery — has led to intense scrutiny by opponents of the mine who say it would damage salmon streams that are important both commercially and culturally to the region.

The Pebble Partnership is 50-50 venture between global mining companies Anglo American and Northern Dynasty. Last year, the Pebble Partnership spent $107 million on preparing the permit application for the proposed mine. To date, the partnership has spent $680 million steering the project toward development.

The $80 million spent this year will come from Anglo American, due to the way the joint venture is structured, said Mike Heatwole, Pebble Partnership spokesperson. This year’s funds will be spent with the goal of developing an overall project description and toward initiating the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) permit process.

NEPA permitting represents “the very beginning” of a years-long quest to collect more than 60 permits and approvals from various federal and state agencies, all required before the mine can proceed, Heatwole said.

Four categories of spending on an ‘Alaska challenge’

The Pebble Partnership plans to spend the $80 million across four different categories of study.

First, a portion of the money will go toward engineering studies to assess how to get the minerals at the Pebble deposit out of the ground and on to market, including what is needed in terms of infrastructure and energy. Engineering challenges could almost be classified as an “Alaska challenge,” Heatwole said. “You have a resource that’s in a remote location, and there’s no infrastructure.”

That infrastructure would include a power plant, roads, and dam to support what would be the largest mine in Alaska. The engineering studies are “a very complex bit of work,” and have been going on for years, he said.

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