Independent experts confirm EPA's 'hypothetical mining scenario' not sufficient to evaluate Pebble
VANCOUVER, Aug. 16, 2012 /PRNewswire/ - A panel of 12 external peer reviewers charged with evaluating the US Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) draft Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment (BBWA) report presented their criticisms at a public meeting last week in Anchorage, Alaska after hearing testimony from some 100 local stakeholders, Alaska Native interests, the State of Alaska, technical and legal representatives of Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. ("Northern Dynasty" or the "Company") (TSX: NDM; NYSE MKT: NAK), Anglo American plc ("Anglo American"), the Pebble Limited Partnership (the "Pebble Partnership" or "PLP") and advocacy groups.
The review panel - comprised of academics, scientists and professional consultants - assessed the quality and sufficiency of scientific information in the EPA's draft BBWA report and whether the 'hypothetical mining scenario' presented is reasonable to assess potential effects of mining in the Bristol Bay region. The panel's comments reflect a common concern that without a detailed mine plan incorporating modern engineering standards and site-specific mitigation, and one that clearly meets established environmental regulations and permitting requirements enforced by the State of Alaska and the US government, there is too much uncertainly to meaningfully assess the potential impacts of a project like Pebble.
"In terms of risk assessment, I think we just don't know," said David Atkins, a consulting hydrologist with Watershed Environment LLC in Boulder, Colorado. " There's too much uncertainty to really determine, to me, from this document the risk of developing a project like this in the watershed. And part of that I think has to do with the hypothetical scenario, which is, you know, largely based on what has been put forward by Northern Dynasty and the Pebble Partnership, but without the engineering details to really be able to assess how this project would be built."EPA officials have stated that the draft BBWA report is based in part on the Preliminary Economic Assessment (PEA) of the Pebble Project prepared by independent engineering firm Wardrop, A Tetra Tech Company on behalf of, and released by, Northern Dynasty in 2011, as well as other preliminary planning materials associated with the Pebble Project. It's important to note that Wardrop's PEA presented its views of a development scenario for the Pebble Project at an operating level, without the comprehensive suite of project-specific mitigation measures to offset potential environmental effects that will be proposed as part of Pebble's permit applications. The Peer Review panel viewed the absence of project-specific mitigation for potential environmental effects as a glaring omission from the EPA BBWA study, and one that significantly limits its credibility as a document upon which to take any regulatory action.