'We've got a ways to go': Pebble to spend $73 million; formal permitting begins in 2011

Posted: Monday, March 01, 2010

The Pebble Limited Partnership, the company wishing to develop the proposed Pebble Mine, says it plans to spend $73 million this year in studies for permitting and continued exploratory drilling.

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Photos By M. Scott Moon
Photos By M. Scott Moon
Laborers work in 2007 at a drilling site in the area where the Pebble Limited Partnership hopes to develop the Pebble Mine. The partnership says it has already spent $400 million on the project and has budgeted another $73 for work this year.

The company -- consisting of Anglo American and Northern Dynasty Minerals -- released its 2010 budget last Thursday. The Pebble Partnership is working to mine copper, gold and molybdenum, a component of steel, from the area near Iliamna.

"What we're doing is continuing the work from 2009," said Mike Heatwole, Pebble Partnership vice president of public affairs. He explained the budget's focus on a pre-feasibility study and ongoing economic and engineering evaluation.

These studies will help in the assembly of an environmental baseline document as well as a preliminary development plan, as a precursor to the permitting process. The environmental baseline document will be a compilation of all environmental data and analysis from the past five years.

Heatwole said factors like the rate of mining, duration of the mine and managing and mitigating potential environmental impacts would all be addressed the preliminary development plan.

Pebble Partnership CEO John Shively said in a statement released Thursday that the plan would be available for review by regional stakeholders before the company applies for permits.

Pebble Partnership hopes to begin the formal permitting process next year.

Heatwole said there are 67 major state and federal permits that need to be obtained before the company can go forward, plus many more minor ones.

"We believe before we're finished there will be hundreds of permits," he said.

The budget also includes site evaluation in Iliamna and exploratory drilling to support the studies.

The rest of this year's budget will go to continued public affairs work and administrative costs. Company representatives have been visiting communities in the state in order explain the project and its potential.

"Alaskans have a lot of questions on what's going on with Pebble," Heatwole said. It's a very well known topic but there's not a depth of knowledge, he added.

Workforce development is ongoing for the company as well, with training programs for local and regional workers to become drillers.

Heatwole said the Pebble Partnership has paid more than $400 million to get to this point.

But, he said, "we've got a ways to go."

Opponents of the Pebble Mine say it the impacts of the drilling could potentially pollute Bristol Bay salmon streams.

Brielle Schaeffer can be reached at brielle.schaeffer@peninsulaclarion.com.



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