by Natalie Obiko Pearson
January 23, 2017, 11:01 AM AKST
Explorer expects Alaska mine permitting to cost $150 million
Chief Executive Thiessen says new partner possible by October
Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. expects to resolve a dispute with the U.S. environmental regulator by April to enable it to move ahead with permitting one of the world’s largest undeveloped copper and gold deposits.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has “a desire to permit Pebble,” the company’s project in Alaska, Northern Dynasty Chief Executive Officer Ronald Thiessen said Monday in Vancouver. “We will come to a resolution within 100 days” with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, he said.
In 2014, the EPA moved to impose restrictions on Pebble, blocking it from applying for a permit, citing “potentially destructive impacts” to the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery. Trump’s pick to head the regulator, Scott Pruitt, is a self-described opponent of the “EPA’s activist agenda” and has called for “regulatory rollback” at the agency.
Thiessen said Monday the company isn’t expecting special treatment under the Trump administration but a return to a “normalized permitting” process. That process should take about four years and cost $150 million, he said.
Thiessen said Monday his company expects to find a new partner by October. While Anglo American Plc had been a partner in the Pebble project, and Rio Tinto Group had held a stake in Northern Dynasty, both companies walked away during the past commodity rout.
Thiessen also said some suitors are interested in forming a consortium to develop the massive deposit, which has measured, indicated and inferred resources of 81.5 billion pounds of copper, 107 million ounces of gold and 514 million ounces of silver.
Northern Dynasty shares have more than tripled since the Nov. 8 U.S. election as investors speculate that Trump’s administration will allow the explorer’s long-stalled Pebble project in Alaska to move ahead. The shares rose 8.9 percent to C$3.79 at 2:34 p.m. in Toronto, giving the company a market value of C$1.01 billion ($760 million).
Pebble “is a really great bet,” Canadian mining magnate Frank Giustra said Sunday. He said he wishes he still owned shares in Northern Dynasty after selling off his holdings last year amid a political controversy.
“If there’s only one thing good about a Trump presidency, it’s that it’ll be a lot easier in the resource industry in the United States to get things done,” Giustra said. “That’s about the only good thing.”
Giustra sold off his interests in Northern Dynasty last year amid criticism that if Hillary Clinton won the U.S. election, he could use his close personal ties with her husband, Bill, to ease U.S. regulatory roadblocks facing the company.
Giustra sold his stake “because I just don’t want anyone even thinking that I’m in this because of my political connections,” he said. “I left a lot of money on the table. It was very sad. It sucks to be me.”