January 2013

31 January 2013

Gov. Parnell seeks to streamline permitting process

Members of the state of Alaska Resource committees for the House and the Senate will review bills introduced by Gov. Sean Parnell that he says are designed to streamline and give Alaska more control over certain aspects of the permitting process. This legislation has potential impact for the development of the proposed Pebble mine. It could make the permitting process easier for developers, but may also cut out public input requirements under the federal permitting process.

House Bill 77 and Senate Bill 26 address land exchange issues and provide authority to the Alaska Department of Natural Resources commissioner to issue general permits for state land rather than requiring individuals to obtain separate permits.

House Bill 78 and Senate Bill 27 would allow the state of Alaska to assume control of the 404 Wetlands permitting process, thereby bypassing federal NEPA requirements. As stated by the governor in his transmittal letter to the Legislature, "This change will limit federal overreach in Alaska by giving the State authority to make jurisdictional determinations, timely process permits, and allow responsible resource development. Removing a significant amount of wetlands from federal authority also reduces the number of projects requiring an expensive and time-consuming federal National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process, since there would be fewer 'major federal actions' associated with these projects."

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27 January 2013

Q & A with Alaska's Large Mine Project Coordinator

In the January 2013 issue of the Pebble Watch newsletter, we focus on permitting for the proposed Pebble Mine. We interviewed Sharmon Stambaugh, Large Mine Project Coordinator in the Office of Project Management and Permitting (OPMP), Alaska Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The following is an extended Q & A with Sharmon about how large mine permitting works in Alaska.

DRNwebLMPIn the "Permitting Large Mines in Alaska" guide on your website, "Pre-scoping/schedule" is the first step in the process. Give us an idea of your involvement in this step for Pebble project. Has Pebble worked closely with you on these issues so far?

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Pebble Watch explores permitting in January newsletter

PW Jan2013 thumbPebble Limited Partnership has said it plans to release a mine plan and advance to permitting before the end of the fiscal year. This issue of Pebble Watch explores the topic of permitting in Alaska. What is the process? What can we expect from a mine plan? What regulatory or legislative items may affect development of the proposed mine?


New Pebble Watch permitting guide developed to highlight the various permits that will likely be required by PLP. Use it to find out which permits include a public input period.

Q & A with Sharmon Stambaugh, large mine project coordinator with Alaska's Department of Natural Resources.


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      22 January 2013

      Rio Tinto appoints new CEO

      International mining group Rio Tinto has selected Sam Walsh as its new CEO, after letting Tom Albanese go earlier this month over disappointing losses posted by the Anglo-Australian giant. Last April, as reported by Pebble Watch, Albanese had told Rio Tinto shareholders that he opposed developing Pebble as an open-pit mine. Walsh is not on record with an opinion about the design of the proposed Pebble mine.

      Albanese is a graduate of University of Fairbanks whose experience includes serving as general manager of the Greens Creek mine near Juneau in the 1990s.

      Rio Tinto owns a 19.6 percent share of Northern Dynasty Minerals, a 50 percent member of the Pebble  Limited Partnership, which seeks to develop the Pebble prospect.

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      10 January 2013

      In the news: Bristol Bay Area Plan revision

      In an article published today in the Alaska Journal of Commerce, reporter Elwood Brehmer writes that some opponents of the proposed Pebble mine are dissatisfied with draft revisions the Alaska Department of Natural Resources has made to the 2005 Bristol Bay Area Plan.

      Draft revisions were posted to DNR's website on Friday, Jan. 4, and are open for public comment until April 4, 2013.

      Brehmer quotes Tim Bristol of Trout Unlimited, which originally called for the state to make revisions, as saying, "We think the state has a lot more work to do to get this thing right."

      And Tom Tilden, chief of the Curyung Tribal Council, is quoted advising DNR to hold public meetings on the issue ahead of the public comment deadline.

      Read the entire article.

      Read more about the draft revision and public comment opportunity.

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      06 January 2013

      Deadline for public input on Bristol Bay Area Plan revisions

      The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has released the Public Review Draft (PRD) of the Determination of Reclassification and Plan Amendment to the 2005 Bristol Bay Area Plan (2005 BBAP). Following a 90-day public review period, which may result in changes to the PRD, DNR intends to adopt the proposed revisions to the 2005 BBAP. Once adopted, this plan, as modified by the adopted plan revisions, will serve as the basis for the management of state lands and waters within the planning area for the next 20 years.

      The state would like input on the PRD. Written comments must be received on or before April 4, 2013, by mail, email, fax or through the DNR website.

      Read more about the proposed changes.


      Contact Information

      Ray Burger
      Alaska Department of Natural Resources
      Division of Mining, Land and Water
      Resource Assessment and Development Section
      550 West 7th Ave, Suite 1050 
      Anchorage, Alaska 99501-3579


      (907) 269-8534
      (907) 269-8915
      This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.





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      04 January 2013

      New science panel in works for April

      The Keystone Center is planning a two-day science panel to cover sections of the Pebble Limited Partnership's Environmental Baseline Document that were not addressed in previous science panels. Topics will include wetlands, vegetation, wildlife and endangered animals. While details are still being determined, the Keystone Center is anticipating that the panels will be held in April at a location in the Bristol Bay watershed. 

      More about the Keystone Center Pebble science panels


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      04 January 2013

      State proposes changes to 2005 Bristol Bay Area Plan; public comment requested

      The state of Alaska Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has revised a portion of the 2005 Bristol Bay Area Plan and is seeking public comment on those changes through April 4, 2013.

      The Bristol Bay Area Plan is a legal document that determines how land in the Bristol Bay area can be used. Areas can be given up to three classifications for uses such as: Mineral, Wildlife Habitat, Public Recreation, Resource Management and Settlement. 

      The state is proposing revisions to the 2005 Bristol Bay Area Plan based on the outcome of agreement between the state and plaintiffs who had litigated to change classifications designated in the plan. Litigation was dropped after the State agreed to review the plan and the plaintiffs' arguments.

      According to the DNR press release on the revisions, proposed changes to the plan include:

      • An additional 723,811 acres of land classified for wildlife habitat and public recreation
      • Added management of "wildlife habitat" and "sensitive fisheries" to another 1.3 million acres already classified for “resource management.” (Affected areas are largely located in the Mulchatna-Nushagak river drainages and in drainages emptying into Lake Iliamna.)

      What do these changes mean for development of the proposed Pebble mine? It is unclear now how these changes could affect development of the proposed Pebble mine. According to the map provided by DNR, it appears as though the reclassified areas lie outside of identified major mineral deposits (see DNR map of proposed changes).


      Read the DNR press release

      Read the entire 2012 revision with maps (63 pp)

      DNR web page with Bristol Bay Area Plan revision

      Map of proposed changes

      Submit comments

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