VANCOUVER, June 28, 2012 /CNW/ - Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd.
("Northern Dynasty" or the "Company") (TSX: NDM) (NYSE Amex: NAK) has
responded to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) call for
public comment on the draft charge it has provided to peer reviewers
assembled to assess the quality and sufficiency of scientific
information presented in the federal agency's recently published draft
Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment (BBWA) report - entitled An Assessment of Potential Mining Impacts on Salmon Ecosystems of
Bristol Bay, Alaska.
In its June 26, 2012 submission, Northern Dynasty said the EPA's draft
charge to peer reviewers is artificially narrow and will prohibit the
12 independent experts from fully assessing whether the scope,
methodology, underlying assumptions, data sources and analysis
presented in the draft report are adequate to achieve the BBWA's stated
purpose. The draft charge even prohibits peer reviewers from commenting
on certain findings in the report by providing a series of restrictive
questions that EPA asserts are "designed to focus reviewers on specific aspects of the report."
"While officials from the EPA Region 10 office in Seattle have regularly
claimed that the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment is not 'about the
Pebble Project', any serious or casual reader of the report or the
voluminous media coverage it has generated will know this is patently
untrue," said Northern Dynasty President & CEO Ron Thiessen. "We should
all be very clear - this report is seeking to pass judgment on the
development potential of America's single greatest resource of copper,
gold and molybdenum before any mine plan has been prepared or any
permit application filed.
"It is Northern Dynasty's view that EPA Region 10's draft BBWA is a
fundamentally flawed document that is premature, rushed, omits key
sources of scientific data, incorporates out of date and inapplicable
information, and distorts other data to arrive at conclusions that are
simply not supported in science. When you consider the global
significance of the mineral resource at question here, and its
strategic and economic value to the nation and the State of Alaska, it
is absolutely unconscionable that EPA would continue to rush this
process to meet a politically inspired deadline, and to restrict the
ability of independent expert scientists to conduct a full and thorough
Thiessen called on EPA Region 10 to substantially expand the mandate
provided to the 12 peer reviewers assembled to assess the draft Bristol
Bay Watershed Assessment report published May 18, 2012, and to extend
the timeframe provided for their work. He noted that EPA Region 10 has
designed the BBWA process so that the public comment and peer review
periods overlap, such that peer reviewers are unlikely to have a full
opportunity to review and consider concerns raised by Pebble Project
proponents, Alaska Native groups, the State of Alaska or others.
"Perhaps the most troubling aspect of EPA Region 10's actions with
regard to the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment is its insistence that
the process must be complete before Americans go to the polls in
November," Thiessen said. "What is the rationale for that deadline?
What is the rush? Why is this assessment being conducted before a
detailed mine proposal has been presented? Why have critical data
sources been overlooked? Why has the EPA not conducted any field
investigations to inform its science? Why is the peer review process
overlapping public review?
"Our concern is that the premature, rushed and under-informed nature of
this investigation will lead to a scientifically indefensible outcome.
Pebble is simply too important a resource to be subject to the whims of
political rather than objective, science-based decision-making."
Concerns about EPA Region 10's proposed charge to peer reviewers of the
draft Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment report presented in Northern
Dynasty's submission include:
The draft charge is too narrow and prohibits peer reviewers from fully
assessing whether the scope, methodology, underlying assumptions, data
sources and analysis presented in the draft report are adequate to
achieve the BBWA's stated purpose.
As an example, peer reviewers would be forbidden from questioning why
the BBWA does not consider any positive effects of mine development,
despite the significant socio-economic challenges facing the Bristol
Bay region and its rapidly declining Native population. Peer reviewers
would also be forbidden from assessing whether the draft BBWA report
findings might be different if the EPA had considered actual
environmental performance at similar mines in Alaska and Canada that
operate in areas with significant salmon fisheries, rather than merely
modelling such effects.
The draft charge does not permit peer reviewers to assess whether the
data and analysis that the EPA has used as the basis for its draft BBWA
report are sufficient or reliable, and instead asks them to focus only
on selected conclusions that have been drawn from this selective data.
As an example, peer reviewers would be forbidden from questioning why
the draft BBWA report does not consider all of the data and analysis on
baseline environmental and social conditions in the study region
provided by the Pebble Limited Partnership (PLP) as part of its
Environmental Baseline Document (EBD) - a 27,000 page volume that
summarizes studies undertaken over a period of eight years and at a
cost of some $150 million. The Pebble EBD is the most exhaustive data
source available to the EPA, and yet it has been largely overlooked.
Based on this and other important data omissions and inappropriate uses,
it is Northern Dynasty's view that peer reviewers should be charged to
determine whether the BBWA satisfies all relevant federal standards for
scientific studies undertaken in the public interest - including the US
Data Quality Act and the EPA's own guidelines on information quality,
and for ecological risk and watershed assessments.
The draft charge should direct peer reviewers to confirm that key
assumptions underlying the draft BBWA report are clear and reasonable.
As examples, the draft BBWA report claims to have assessed "good" mining
practices but provides little explanation of what 'good' mining
practices entail or why it has failed to consider 'best' mining
practices. The draft report fails to explain what mine design,
pollution control and mitigation strategies are assumed. It fails to
present or provide a rationale and justification of its assumptions
about the chemical composition of various mine materials (e.g. mineral
concentrate, tailings, tailings water, waste rock, discharge water). It
fails to explain why the performance of temporary logging roads built
under 40-year-old standards are assumed to predict the performance of
permanent all-season industrial roads built to modern standards. It
fails to explain why full mitigation for salmon in the no failure
scenario still results in the net adverse impacts described.
In the absence of understanding what assumptions have been made and the
rationale for those assumptions, peer reviewers will not be able to
determine whether the findings of the draft BBWA report are accurate or
The draft charge does not address whether it's reasonable for the EPA to
focus on a single hypothetical project (Pebble) to assess the overall
impacts of hard rock mining in a vast region.
Peer reviewers are not permitted to investigate whether mineral
development projects in different locations within the Bristol Bay
watersheds, or those seeking to develop different types of mineral
deposits, might have different impacts. Nor are peer reviewers
permitted to assess the accuracy or completeness of the information
upon which the EPA has built its hypothetical mine plan.
The draft charge should direct peer reviewers to comment on whether the
EPA has fulfilled its mandate to provide an ecosystem-based assessment
of the potential effects of mine development on Bristol Bay salmon
For example, peer reviewers should be permitted to enquire why seven of
the nine watersheds that comprise the Bristol Bay fishery are excluded
from the assessment. They should be permitted to enquire whether the
draft report has comprehensively assessed the potential effect of
mineral development on Bristol Bay commercial, subsistence and
sport-fisheries (rather than focusing on specific fish in specific
water courses). Peer reviewers should also be permitted to determine
whether the draft BBWA report has considered wetland and fisheries
mitigation requirements under US law, which often require compensation
for localized project effects by enhancing resource values at the
ecosystem level (often at a multiple to the resources affected).
"EPA Region 10 has placed unacceptably narrow boundaries on the
questions that peer reviewers can ask and the investigations they can
undertake," Thiessen said. "These experts are also constrained by time
and the limitation of conducting their review prior to receiving public
comment on the draft BBWA report."
Thiessen said the fisheries and mineral resources of southwest Alaska
are too important for the state and the nation to allow a premature,
rushed and flawed scientific study to determine their future: "We
encourage the EPA to slow this process down to allow good scientific
practices to rule the day - including provision for a robust peer
review process. Alternatively, the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment
should be abandoned, and the Pebble Project should, when ready, proceed
to be comprehensively reviewed by federal and state regulatory agencies
under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), like every other
significant resource development project in the country."
About the Pebble Project
The Pebble Project is an initiative of PLP to responsibly develop a
globally significant copper, gold and molybdenum deposit in southwest
Alaska into a modern, long-life mine. The project is located 200 miles
southwest of Anchorage on state land designated for mineral exploration
and development. It is situated approximately 1,000 feet above
sea-level, 65 miles from tidewater on Cook Inlet and presents
favourable conditions for successful mine site and infrastructure
The Pebble Project consists of the Pebble deposit, surrounding mineral
claims and a stream of financing being provided by Northern Dynasty's
project partner Anglo American US (Pebble) LLC. The Pebble Partnership
was established in July 2007 as a 50:50 partnership between a
wholly-owned affiliate of Northern Dynasty and a wholly-owned
subsidiary of Anglo American plc. Both Northern Dynasty and Anglo
American have equal ownership and direction of the Pebble Partnership.
Under the terms of the Pebble Limited Partnership Agreement, Anglo
American is required to elect to commit $1.5 billion in staged
investments in order to retain its 50% interest in the Pebble Project.
Funds provided by Anglo American are currently being invested in
comprehensive exploration, engineering, environmental and socioeconomic
programs toward the future development of the Pebble Project.
About Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd.
Northern Dynasty is a mineral exploration and development company based
in Vancouver, Canada, which holds indirect interests in 650 sq. miles
of mineral claims in southwest Alaska, USA. Northern Dynasty's
principal asset is a 50% interest in the Pebble Partnership, owner of
the Pebble Project. The Pebble Project is an advanced-stage initiative
to develop one of the world's most important mineral resources.
Ronald W. Thiessen
President & CEO
No regulatory authority accepts responsibility for the adequacy or
accuracy of this release. Northern Dynasty is solely and entirely
responsible for the contents of this news release. No other party,
including any parties which have an interest in the project, are in any
way responsible for the contents hereof.
Forward Looking Information and other Cautionary Factors
This release includes certain statements that may be deemed
"forward-looking statements". All statements in this release, other
than statements of historical facts, especially those that address
estimated resource quantities, grades and contained metals, are
forward-looking statements because they are generally made on the basis
of estimation and extrapolation from a limited number of drill holes
and metallurgical studies. Although diamond drill hole core provides
valuable information about the size, shape and geology of an
exploration project, there will always remain a significant degree of
uncertainty in connection with these valuation factors until a deposit
has been extensively drilled on closely spaced centers, which has
occurred only in specific areas on the Pebble Project. Although the
Company believes the expectations expressed in its forward-looking
statements are based on reasonable assumptions, such statements should
not be in any way construed as guarantees of the ultimate size, quality
or commercial feasibility of the Pebble Project or of the Company's
future performance. The likelihood of future mining at the Pebble
Project is subject to a large number of risks and will require
achievement of a number of technical, economic and legal objectives,
including obtaining necessary mining and construction permits,
completion of pre-feasibility and final feasibility studies,
preparation of all necessary engineering for underground workings and
processing facilities as well as receipt of significant additional
financing to fund these objectives as well as funding mine
construction. Such funding may not be available to the Company on
acceptable terms or on any terms at all. There is no known ore at the
Pebble Project and there is no assurance that the mineralization at the
Pebble Project will ever be classified as ore. The need for compliance
with extensive environmental and socio-economic rules and practices and
the requirement for the Company to obtain government permitting can
cause a delay or even abandonment of a mineral project. The Company is
also subject to the specific risks inherent in the mining business as
well as general economic and business conditions. For more information
on the Company, Investors should review the Company's annual Form 40-F
filing with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission and
its home jurisdiction filings that are available at www.sedar.com.
SOURCE Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd.
For further information:
For further details on Northern Dynasty please visit the Company's website at www.northerndynasty.com or contact Investor services at (604) 684-6365 or within North America at 1-800-667-2114. Review Canadian public filings at www.sedar.com and US public filings at www.sec.gov.