Alaska: Judge temporarily halts EPA process on Pebble Mine

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A worker with the Pebble Mine project test drills in the Bristol Bay region of Alaska near the village of Iliamma, Alaska in July 13, 2007. An EPA report at the time indicated a large-scale copper and gold mine in Alaska's Bristol Bay region could have devastating effects on the world's largest sockeye salmon fishery and adversely affect Alaska Natives, whose culture is built around salmon.(Al Grillo/AP)
A worker with the Pebble Mine project test drills in the Bristol Bay region of Alaska near the village of Iliamma, Alaska in July 13, 2007. An EPA report at the time indicated a large-scale copper and gold mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region could have devastating effects on the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery and adversely affect Alaska Natives, whose culture is built around salmon.(Al Grillo/AP)
U.S. District Court Judge H. Russel Holland issued a preliminary injunction Monday, temporarily halting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 404(c) process regarding the Pebble Mine in Alaska.

The process allows the EPA to restrict or prohibit projects that could have adverse effects on fishery areas.

The Pebble Partnership contends the EPA violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which ensures advisory committees are objective and accessible to the public, while developing the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment.

“The preliminary injunction basically says that the EPA can’t take further steps in their preemptive process against Pebble until the merits of this case have more time in front of the court,” Mike Heatwole, spokesperson for the Pebble Limited Partnership, said.

Concerns over watershed

The EPA initiated the 404(c) process at the end of February, alleging the Pebble Mine would have significant and irreversible negative impacts on the Bristol Bay watershed.

Trout Unlimited‘s Tim Bristol says the ruling is disappointing.

“The people of the region, the people who depend upon that fishery for their livelihood, I think after last week’s announcement of a potential huge run, I think they were hopeful that we would have the Clean Water Act protections in place, so for the first time in over a decade and fish and operate their businesses and get on with their lives and not have the specter of Pebble looming over their head,” Bristol said.

Bristol says Monday’s ruling likely means Judge Holland needs more time to sort through the information filed by the Pebble Partnership.

The EPA says it’s waiting to see the court’s written order on the preliminary injunction and hopes the litigation is resolved quickly so the agency can move forward with its regulatory decision-making.

Court proceedings are expected to resume early next year.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Arctic mining – unexpected social negatives for Inuit women, Radio Canada International

Finland: Finland’s Economic Affairs Minister calls for special audit of Talvivaara mining company, Yle News

Greenland: Analysis: Implications of Greenland’s decision to allow uranium mining, Blog by Mia Bennett

Norway:  Sustainable future for Arctic people?, from Deutsche Welle’s Iceblogger

Russia: Analysis – Putin shutters Russian indigenous peoples’, Blog by Mia Bennett

Sweden:  Artists boycott market in Arctic Sweden over mining conflict, Radio Sweden

United States:  Platinum mine criminal charges a first for Alaska, Alaska Dispatch

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