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Panel Taking Comments On Alaska Mine Study

The assessment was billed as a look at the impacts of the kind of mining needed to successfully develop the deposit, not an in-depth assessment of any specific project. It used a hypothetical mine scenario â¿¿ but one that McLerran said drew in part on plans and data put forth by Pebble and Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd.

The Pebble Mine is a joint venture between Northern Dynasty and Anglo American plc.

Pebble says the prospect is one of the largest of its kind in the world, with the potential of producing 80.6 billion pounds of copper, 5.6 billion pounds of molybdenum and 107.4 million ounces of gold. Supporters of the mine say it would bring much-needed jobs to economically depressed rural Alaska, but opponents fear it could disrupt, if not destroy, a way of life in the region.

Sarah McCarr, who works for Pebble, became emotional describing limited employment opportunities in the region and how she wouldn't be able to stay there without a good job like she has now.

Some commenters who praised EPA's effort Tuesday also suggested areas for further analysis. Sue Mauger, science director for Cook Inletkeeper, recommended EPA look at how climate change might further compound the potential for habitat loss for fish due to mining activity.

McLerran said EPA received more than 220,000 comments on its draft assessment, many of which came on form letters, with "well over 90 percent" of total commenters supportive of EPA's work on the draft. The comment period closed last month, above objections from state leaders and others, who sought an extension.

EPA has gotten push-back from resource development groups and the state of Alaska, among others, who consider the agency's actions to be premature and an overreach.

Alaska Attorney General Michael Geraghty, for example, has raised concerns that the assessment could lead to EPA vetoing mining activity.

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