Northern Dynasty updates Pebble PEA, adds southern access route

Northern Dynasty Minerals (TSX: NDM; NYSE: NAK) published on Wednesday an updated preliminary economic assessment (PEA) for its Pebble copper project, which […]
Drilling at the Pebble project in Alaska. (Image courtesy of Northern Dynasty Minerals.)

Northern Dynasty Minerals (TSX: NDM; NYSE: NAK) published on Wednesday an updated preliminary economic assessment (PEA) for its Pebble copper project, which includes an infrastructure plan for a "southern route" access to the proposed mine in Alaska.

The Canadian miner said the independent technical report reviews cost and price estimates to reflect current economic volatility, providing production, financial and cost estimates for a proposed 20-year, 180,000 tonnes per day open pit operation.

The company, through its subsidiary Pebble Limited Partnership, has been trying to develop the mine for almost two decades, but it has hit several roadblocks in the process

Former US President Barack Obama opposed the project, and his successor Donald Trump ultimately did too, deeming it “too risky”.

President Joe Biden has openly expressed its opposition to the project, taking steps as soon as he took the post in 2021 to permanently protect Alaska’s Bristol Bay.

As part of his administration’s measures against Pebble, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) blocked the company in January from storing mine waste in the state’s watershed, home to the world’s largest sockeye salmon industry.

Alaska filed a motion in July asking the US supreme Court to overturn EPA’s veto, arguing the move violated a decades-old land swap deal and the state’s sovereignty.

Pebble Limited Partnership is also considering its legal options to challenge the verdict, which concluded the project would cause large-scale loss and damage to Bristol Bay’s watershed.

The decision effectively blocked what would be North America’s largest mine and any future mining of the same deposit in headwaters of Bristol Bay, home to the world’s largest sockeye salmon industry.

Northern Dynasty noted the 2023 PEA includes updates on the EPA final determination and the US Army Corps of Engineers record of decision appeal processes.

The Pebble project would be capable of processing 1.3 billion tonnes of mineralized material over 20 years of mining , with an average yearly operating cost of $14.17 per tonne.

The mine will on average produce every year about 320 million pounds of copper; 368 000 ounces of gold, 15 million pounds of molybdenum, 1.8 million ounces of silver and 10,000 kg of rhenium.

Over its life-of-mine, Pebble will unearth 6.4 billion pounds of copper; 7.4 million ounces of gold, 300 million pounds of molybdenum; 37 million ounces of silver, and 200,000 kg of rhenium.

The total initial capital cost for the design, construction, installation and commissioning of the proposed project is estimated to be $6.77 billion.

"The proposed mine for the Pebble project would provide good-paying, year-round employment for thousands of Alaskans, something desperately needed in Southwest Alaska," Northern Dynasty president and CEO Ron Thiessen said in the statement.

The executive noted that new infrastructure developed to support the project would offer the additional benefit of potentially lowering energy costs for the region. 

For decades, explorers and developers have been attracted to resource-rich southwestern Alaska, known for holding significant deposits of gold, copper, molybdenum and other minerals near the headwaters of two rivers flowing into Bristol Bay.

But conservationists, local activists, fishermen and federal regulators have argued that industrial, open-pit mining operations to extract the lode threatens the region’s thriving salmon sector.



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