Providing coverage of Alaska and Northwest Canada's mineral industry
May 2008

Vol. 13, No. 21 Week of May 25, 2008

MINING NEWS: Pebble owners pledge to share research

The partnership releases first two of a series of 14 reports on environmental and socio-economic data collected near giant deposit

Shane Lasley

Mining News

The Pebble Partnership, vowing to share its research with the public as it becomes available, has launched a series of reports based on its pre-permitting environmental and socio-economic reports.

In May, the partnership of Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. and Anglo American plc., the two companies working to develop the massive Pebble copper-gold-molybdenum project in Southwest Alaska, published Report Series A: Meteorology and Report Series B: Surface Water Hydrology—the first two of 14 reports that the owners have pledged to release during the next two years.

Pebble Partnership CEO John Shively said the Partnership will release the data it collects with little or no analysis over a period of months rather than all at once, because of the large volume of information and strict requirements for its quality assurance and control. A comprehensive environmental baseline document will subsequently be prepared and appended to the project permit, he said.

Reports in the series are the culmination of data collected since 2004 from around 45 professional consultants studying environmental and socio-economic conditions of the Pebble project sites and the entire region as a whole.

The Partnership has spent about $90 million to date on environmental and socio-economic studies in and around the Pebble project, accumulating what is considered to be one of the most complete pre-development databases in Alaska’s history. The information will be used to help design the Pebble project, facilitate project permitting, and establish a baseline for monitoring future changes.

“There’s been a high degree of public interest in the work that our environmental and technical consultants have been performing in the project area over the past several years,” Shively said. “And while we have always been open and willing to share the results of our work with Alaskans, the Pre-Permitting Environmental & Socio-Economic Data Report Series will formalize that process.

“We believe that an informed public can make a very positive contribution to the development of a responsible mine plan at Pebble,” he added.

Report Series A: Meteorology

The first report summarizes meteorological data collected from three key Pebble project meteorological stations over the past three years.

Federal and state regulatory agencies require meteorological data as part of the project permit application process and for an environmental baseline. The data used for project air permitting purposes must meet federal “prevention of significant deterioration” or PSD quality meteorological monitoring standards. The agencies will use the information, in part, to assess the project’s potential effects on air quality. Meteorological data also will be used by project engineers to help locate a site and design project facilities, and to manage site conditions.

An independent environmental consulting firm has collected about 3.5 million meteorological data points from nine weather stations since it began monitoring the Pebble project area in 2005. This data is continuously collected as one-hour averages of one-second observations of wind speed, wind direction, temperature, solar radiation, precipitation, evaporation, relative humidity and barometric pressure.

Seven of the stations are collecting PSD quality data, which also will be used in the project’s environmental baseline. Two additional stations are collecting other quality data that will be submitted as an appendix to state and federal agencies.

The meteorological report contains information collected from three of the PSD quality weather stations— two stations, Pebble 1 and Pebble 4, near the Pebble deposit and one station , Pebble Port 1, at the proposed port site. The four remaining PSD-quality weather stations were established in 2007, and the partnership said it will release a report outlining the data from these locations in spring 2009.

Among the meteorological extremes recorded at the Pebble deposit and potential Pebble port:

Maximum recorded hourly wind speed at the Pebble deposit site: 89.5 miles per hour

Maximum recorded wind gust at the Pebble deposit site: 137.1 miles per hour

Maximum recorded temperature at the Pebble deposit site: 73.4 degrees Fahrenheit

Minimum recorded temperature at the Pebble deposit site: -28.8 degrees Fahrenheit

Maximum recorded hourly wind speed at potential port site: 45.6 miles per hour

Maximum recorded wind gust at potential port site: 88.4 miles per hour

Maximum recorded temperature at potential port site: 77.3 degrees Fahrenheit

Minimum recorded temperature at potential port site: -11.4 degrees Fahrenheit

Report Series B: Surface Water Hydrology

The second report in the series, released May 16, summarizes the surface water hydrology collected from 13 stations in four watersheds — two stations in the North Fork Koktuli River watershed, seven stations in the South Fork Koktuli River watershed, three stations in the Upper Talarik Creek watershed and one station in the Kaskanak Creek watershed — around the Pebble project area since 2004.

Each of the stations collects continuous stream-flow data at the location of the gauge. The information in the report includes the daily mean stream flow data from the date the gauges were installed through September 2007. Monthly mean stream-flow statistics are also provided for the 2005 through 2007 water years.

In addition to stream-flow, the Pebble Partnership will accumulate data for its water-quality study program to help calculate the amount of mineral content in surface water downstream from the Pebble project area that originates from the mineralized area surrounding the deposit. All of this information will be included in the Partnership’s baseline studies.

Streams surrounding the Pebble project have 13 water-flow stations in addition to 13 used to provide data for the report—the United States Geological Survey maintains three stations in the area, the Alaska Peninsula installed three stations of their own in 2007 and the partnership installed seven new stations in 2007. Stream-flow data from the partnership’s stations will be available in May 2009.

To have a full understanding of the hydrology of the area the Pebble Partnership has an ongoing groundwater hydrology study program. The combination of data collected from the surface and groundwater hydrology will provide a comprehensive assessment of the water system in the project area – including interactions between groundwater and surface water. The Pebble Partnership’s surface and groundwater hydrology baseline studies will provide important information for project engineers developing a water management model for the proposed Pebble mine.

More findings coming

In June the partnership plans to release collected groundwater data as part of the report series. Among reports on environmental and socio-economic study programs to be released in the months ahead:

June 2008: Surficial Geology

June 2008: Groundwater Hydrology

September 2008: Trace Elements (Sediments and Soils)

November 2008: Groundwater and Surface Water Quality

February 2009: Trace Elements (Vegetation and Fish/Mammal Tissue)

April 2009: Macroinvertebrates and Periphyton

June 2009: Marine Habitats

August 2009: Marine Nearshore Fish and Benthic Invertebrates

September 2009: Noise

October 2009: Lake Iliamna Studies

November 2009: Visual Resources

December 2009: Terrestrial Habitat and Wildlife

The partnership also began studying recreation, land and water use, wetlands, fish/aquatics and socio-economics. The company will release the findings from these studies in 2009 and 2010.

Subsistence/traditional knowledge and cultural resource studies also are under way in and around the project site, but the partnership considers this information proprietary to local residents and communities and will not be releasing it to the general public.

“We believe that sharing our environmental and socio-economic data years before the onset of permitting, even before the Pebble Project is defined, will ultimately lead to more informed public input and a better project,” Shively said. “The scope and quality of the environmental and scientific studies we have undertaken will be a valuable and positive legacy for this region and the state as a whole.”

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