Pebble Mine backers ready EPA pushback

Proponents of a massive and contentious copper and gold mine in Alaska are poised to issue a rebuttal to the Environmental Protection Agency’s February move to halt the project in its early stages.

The Pebble Partnership expects to respond Tuesday to the EPA’s February decision to delay the permitting process for the Pebble Mine project under a seldom-used provision of the Clean Water Act, according to the firm’s CEO, Tom Collier.

Collier said the move amounts to regulatory overreach by the agency.

“We don’t believe they have the statutory authority,” he said Monday.

The partnership’s response comes amid an increasingly tense feud between the government and the partnership, which contends that the proposed mining site is the world’s largest deposit of undiscovered copper and gold.

Collier said the project would result in as many as 15,000 permanent jobs, thousands of them in an economically battered region of southwestern Alaska.

But opponents of the project, including environmental groups, say the Pebble mine could pollute Bristol Bay and its wild salmon population.

The EPA dust-up is the latest in a series of regulatory and financial setbacks dealt to the Pebble Mine project, but Collier maintained the project remains viable.