Pebble Mine permitting debate continues with Congressional Hearing

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- In just a few months we will learn if the Pebble Mine Partnership will gain the necessary permits to build its gold and copper mine in Southern Alaska. Even though the decision lies with the Army Corps of Engineers,
the discussion has spread all the way to Washington where local activists and Pebble representatives were called today to testify.

Tom Collier, Pebble Mine Partnership CEO, testifies before Congress about the future of the Pebble Mine project in southern Alaska. (Source: Gray DC)

Despite promises of economic growth and job opportunities, Alaska native Alannah Hurley is pushing back against the Pebble Mine, claiming it poses a risk to the entire Bristol Bay watershed.

"It's not a matter of if it will impact the environment, but when," said Hurley. "If our lands and waters are devastated, our indigenous people are devastated."

Tom Collier, Pebble Mine Partnership CEO, says operations will be safe and they are still moving forward despite a few lawsuits and recent allegations of insider trading.

According to KTUU, an attorney representing Washington, D.C. based environmental activist group Earthworks requested an investigation into insider trading within Pebble's parent company, Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd.

The complaint alleges that investors were given knowledge that was not public before the EPA announced it would reconsider 2014 protections for Bristol Bay that blocked the Pebble deposit from being developed and used that knowledge to make trades. CNN first reported the accusations.

"It's just crap," said Collier after Wednesday's hearing. "There is no factual basis whatsoever to those claims and allegations."

Ultimately, it's up to the Army Corp of Engineer whether to grant a permit for the mine. The EPA has limited veto power as well. Congress is not directly involved, which is partly why Rep. Don Young (R-AK) said the hearing was a "waste of time".

"It is state land, not federal land," said Young. "Let the process work."

Hurley, however, says she's glad she had the chance to share her concerns.

"We need to be heard in this process and our people matter," she said.

Thursday, the EPA is facing a deadline to notify the Corps whether it believes the mine will have an "unacceptable impact on aquatic resources." However, the Corps could choose to ignore the EPA's findings and issue a permit anyway.

A record of decision on the permit is expected from the Corps sometime in the middle of next year.

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