Longer public comment sought ahead of Pebble project review

March 30, 2018 GMT

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — A state agency and critics of the proposed Pebble Mine want the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to provide more opportunity for public comment ahead of an environmental review.

State Natural Resources Commissioner Andy Mack this week asked the corps to extend the comment period to at least 90 to 120 days. It’s currently scheduled for 30 days.

Corps spokesman John Budnik said in an email Friday that the corps is considering an extension. A decision on whether to do so would have to be made before April 30, when the comment period is now scheduled to end, he said.

The comment period provides an opportunity for people to share their views, cite any concerns and offer suggestions on the scope of a review.

Mack, in his letter, said due to Pebble’s size and potential impacts, 30 days is likely insufficient. The proposed copper and gold mine is near a major salmon fishery in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region.

Alaska Native tribes and villages opposed to the mine worry the corps is trying to rush the review.

Alannah Hurley, executive director at the United Tribes of Bristol Bay, called the proposed 30-day comment period “absurd.”

“We will not have a meaningful opportunity to engage and provide critical input on how we will be impacted by the Pebble Mine,” she said in a release.

The corps previously announced its plans to conduct an environmental review after the Pebble Limited Partnership filed a permit application.

Pebble CEO Tom Collier has said the company plans to show it can operate a mine “without compromising the fish and water resources around the project.”