Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
State permits for the Pebble Mine will be challenged in court. State Superior Court judge Eric Aarseth has found the state Department of Natural Resources in 2009 issued permits for the mine without considering the mine’s impact on public resources. The judge said that the state should have considered state constitutional issues before issuing the permits.
The Superior Court action results from a lawsuit filed by Nunamta Aulukestai, a group made up of eight village corporations in Southwest Alaska. The lawsuit alleges that DNR issued the land-use and water-use permits behind closed doors in violation of the Alaska Constitution.
Nunamta Aulukestai’s goal is to stop the development of Pebble Mine, which is a copper and gold mine being developed near the headwaters of the Kvichak and Nushagak Rivers, which are the largest sockeye salmon producing rivers in the world. Opponents of the Pebble mine claim that the open pit mine will compromise the sockeye salmon resource and do harm to the Bristol Bay salmon fishery.
Mike Heatwohl, spokesman for the Pebble Project, says the implications of the judge’s decision are under review.
Heatlwohl says Pebble exploration will continue for the present time. A trial is scheduled for December 6.
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