Alaska Peninsula Corporation (APC) announced that it has made an agreement with Pebble Limited Partnership (PLP) that allows the company to develop a transportation corridor on its land to facilitate construction and operation of a mine at the Pebble deposit. The corridor, as defined in permitting documents, would run from Amakdedori Port to Lake Iliamna.
APC is the Alaska Native village corporation for the communities of South Naknek, Port Heiden, Ugashik, Kokhanok and Newhalen. The transportation corridor would come closest to Kokhanok and Newhalen.
Surface and Subsurface Lands
Per the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, village corporations were given the right to surface estate and regional corporations were granted title to the subsurface estate. This means that while APC owns surface rights to land along parts of the Amakdedori/Iliamna corridor, Bristol Bay Native Corporation (BBNC) owns the subsurface rights. According to BBNC, it does not consent to PLP’s use of its subsurface lands or the subsurface resources, including the gravel and rock resources. Since PLP’s plan includes burying a natural gas pipeline and fiber optic cable adjacent to the road along the transportation corridor, an agreement for subsurface land access would be necessary.
Multiple corridors under analysis
The Amakdedori/Iliamna route is one of two options the U.S. Corps of Engineers (Corps) is analyzing in its Draft Environmental Impact Statement. The other alternative, informally known as the “northern route,” runs between Williamsport and Pile Bay. The Corps is looking at a few variants of the northern route, which generally does not cross APC lands.
APC/PLP Access Agreement highlights
According to APC, the agreement includes:
- annual toll payments and other fees paid to APC by Pebble
- profit sharing for APC and its 900 shareholders
- “Preferred Contractor” status for APC on Pebble-related projects
APC also notes that it will benefit from the construction of new infrastructure in the Lake Iliamna region through lower costs for power, equipment and supplies, as well as enhanced economic activity.
PLP and APC have been in talks since January 2018, according to this publication on APC’s website. In April 2018, The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers held a scoping meeting in Kokhanok, the APC village on the southside of Lake Iliamna that would be connected to the transportation corridor by a spur road. At that meeting, David McAlister, CEO of APC, presented a joint statement on behalf of APC and the Kokhanok Village Council. They expressed “strong support for a total and fair review of PLP’s permit application for development of Pebble Mine,” and asked the Corps to “consider the state of the local and regional economies and the impact of the denial of Pebble’s application on Kokhanok and the surrounding villages’ future sustainability.”
A sign of local support?
One of PLP’s stated goals is to change public perception about the proposed Pebble mine development. Ron Thiessen, CEO of Northern Dynasty Minerals, which owns PLP, said the agreement “represents a significant milestone in the developing relationship between Pebble and the Alaska Native people of the region.” In a news release, Brad Angasan, APC’s Vice President for Corporate Affairs, said that the 9-member Board of Directors, “believes a responsibly designed and operated mine at Pebble can make a positive long-term contribution to the lives and well-being of APC shareholders and villages.” However, the decision to formalize the land access agreement with PLP was not put to a vote by APC’s 900+ shareholders.
Some shareholders expressed support for the project in testimony at the April 2018 scoping meeting. Others were concerned about potential effects of the development:
“APC is supposed to protect our land from people like Pebble, and I’m one of the shareholders…”
“The Alaska Peninsula Corporation did not poll their shareholders on granting Pebble access to corporation lands and giving them right of ways.”
The agreement to access APC land is contingent upon successful permitting of the project. Additionally, the extent to which such an agreement is needed depends on which transportation corridor is selected, as the northern route would cross very few (if any) APC lands.