EPA Warns of Risk to Salmon Posed by Alaskan Mine Project

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said large-scale salmon habitats may be harmed by mining near Bristol Bay, Alaska, where Anglo American Plc is working with a partner to study developing a new copper mine.

“There is potential for certain activities associated with large-scale mining to have adverse impacts on the productivity and sustainability of the salmon fishery in the watershed,” the agency said in a statement today accompanying a 338-page draft report.

The Kvichak River, part of the Bristol Bay watershed in southwest Alaska, produces more sockeye salmon than any other river in the world, according to the EPA. A subsidiary of London-based Anglo American and an affiliate of Vancouver-based Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. formed a partnership in 2007 to work on the mine project.

The so-called Pebble mine prospect area, in the watershed, has one of the world’s largest concentrations of three metals, with 80.6 billion pounds of copper, 5.6 billion pounds of molybdenum and 107.4 million ounces of gold, according to the Pebble partnership’s website.

Seeking Comment

The EPA said it studied the potential effect of mining in response to the companies’ announced plans and widespread interest among residents. The draft report will be circulated for comment.

The agency said in a statement on its website that it hasn’t decided whether a mine in the area would be regulated under the Clean Water Act, and the report will help inform that decision.

The EPA study, completed in just one year, was hurried, John Shively, chief executive officer of Pebble Partnership, said in a statement.

“We are concerned that the EPA may use this rushed process as the basis for an unprecedented regulatory action against the Pebble Project,” Shively said. “We believe it would be unprecedented and entirely inappropriate for the EPA to take steps to stop our project before it has been fully designed” or a permit has been applied for, he said.

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