EPA to wait until February to decide on Alaska mine

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said it is waiting until February to decide whether to block work on the massive Pebble Mine in southwestern Alaska.

The EPA said it got more than 155,000 written comments so far on the proposed copper and gold mine that would be the largest of its kind in the world. It also heard from hundreds of community members at seven public hearings. 

The agency is obligated to decide on whether to block the permit within 30 days of the final hearing, which was in August. But it can extend the time period “upon a show of good cause,” officials wrote in a Friday notice published in the Federal Register.

“To allow full consideration of the extensive administrative record, including public comments, EPA finds there is good cause to extend the time period,” it wrote.

The EPA will make its final decision by Feb. 4.

The agency proposed in July to put tight restrictions on the Pebble Mine that its developer Northern Dynasty Minerals said would effectively kill the project. Officials said Pebble’s waste materials would get into nearby wetlands and waterways and harm nearby Bristol Bay, which hosts the world’s largest sockeye salmon population. 

The mine has been extremely controversial for years because of its potential environmental impact.

But the EPA’s actions have also been controversial, because it is proposing to block the mine before its developer even files an application, a move congressional Republicans have tried to prohibit