Canadian Mining Journal


COPPER-GOLD: Northern Dynasty falters as First Quantum backs away from Pebble

It seems the Pebble project is destined to remain the world’s largest undeveloped copper-gold deposit, at least for the short term. (Image: Northern Dynasty)

ALASKA – First Quantum Minerals has pulled out of a deal with Northern Dynasty Minerals to develop the controversial Pebble copper-gold project 380 km from Anchorage. The two companies have terminated their agreement that would have seen First Quantum earn a 50% share of the mine.

Northern Dynasty’s share price dropped almost 65% on news of the breakup. The price on May 28 was $0.57, down from just over $0.90 on May 25 when the news broke.

Nor is First Quantum the only potential partner to have pulled out of Pebble. Anglo American was interested several years ago, but it, too, dropped the project in 2013.

The Pebble project has been opposed on ecological grounds for fear that it will have adverse effects on nearby salmon spawning grounds. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency threatened to block development even  before the environmental impact statement was complete. That dispute was settled in May 2017, and Northern Dynasty had been moving the permitting process forward.

Northern Dynasty has proposed a conventional open pit mine with a life of 20 years. Mining would proceed at a rate of 81.6 million t/y or 145,000 t/d of ore. Annual output would be 287 million lb. of copper, about 321,000 oz. of gold and 13 million lb. of molybdenum.

The most recent resource numbers for Pebble were estimated at the end of last year using a 0.3% copper equivalent cut-off. The measured and indicated portion totaled 6.5 billion tonnes grading 0.40% copper, 0.34 g/t gold, and 240 ppm molybdenum. The inferred portion is 4.5 billion tonnes grading 0.25% copper, 0.25 g/t gold, and 226 ppm moly.

With the recent loss of a potential partner, Northern Dynasty will continue to own the world’s largest undeveloped copper-gold deposit for a while longer.

The recent corporate presentation at contains detailed information about Pebble and a fair amount of optimism.

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