Conservation deal puts additional hurdle in front of embattled mine proposal

Conservation deal puts additional hurdle in front of embattled mine proposal
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A new conservation deal puts an additional hurdle ahead of an already embattled proposed mine that’s controversial due to its proximity to a salmon-producing region in Alaska. 

It was publicly announced Tuesday that Pedro Bay Corp. agreed to sell 44,000 acres of land — which includes some land that was proposed to be part of a transportation route for the Pebble Mine — as permanent conservation easements to The Conservation Fund. 

A total of 90 percent of shareholders in the Alaska native corporation voted in favor of the $18.3 million deal, according to a statement sent to The Hill from The Conservation Fund. 

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The deal was first reported by The Washington Post.

Conservation Fund spokesperson Ann Simonelli said in an email that the agreement will prevent any right-of-way agreements with the mine project because of restrictions on development in the conservation easements.  

In a statement, Larry Selzer, the group’s president and CEO, said the deal would protect the “magnificent, vital landscape,” and Pedro Bay CEO Matt McDaniel added that it would benefit community members by “protecting their land, their subsistence, and their traditional way of life.”

The decision creates an additional obstacle for the proposed Pebble Mine, a permit for which was rejected last year under the Trump administration. 

The mine would extract copper and gold from a location situated at the headwaters that feed into Bristol Bay, a major sockeye salmon fishery.

The Pebble Limited Partnership, which is behind the mining proposal, appealed the decision from the Army Corps of Engineers, arguing that the rejection is “not supported by the record established in the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the project.”

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Pebble CEO John Shively also argued at the time that the government did not give due consideration to the company’s plan to mitigate issues that were raised, rejecting it just a few days after it was received. 

Asked about the new deal on Tuesday, Pebble spokesperson Mike Heatwole said in an email the company is focused on working with the Army Corps of Engineers on the appeal.  

“This recent development hasn’t really changed that focus in any way,” Heatwole said. 

During the prior administration, the mine had appeared to be progressing, but was later rejected after prominent conservatives, including Tucker CarlsonTucker CarlsonDon Lemon defends Tucker Carlson amid confrontation video Fox News blasts 'ambush' of Carlson at Montana fly-fishing store Psaki says Biden admin 'needs' Fox News in order to fight vaccine misinformation MORE and Donald TrumpDonald TrumpMyPillow CEO to pull ads from Fox News Haaland, Native American leaders press for Indigenous land protections Simone Biles, Vince Lombardi and the courage to walk away MORE Jr., came out against it. 

Separately, its former CEO Tom Collier stepped down after an environmental group released tapes in which the executive bragged about his close relationship with government officials.

On the tapes, which were later announced to apparently be relevant to a grand jury investigation, officials discussed extending the mine’s operation for a longer time and expanding production to greater levels than they had indicated to Congress.