The struggle for the fate of one of the largest copper and gold ore deposits in the world has raged for more than a decade. The mining industry and many state officials have supported the project in terms of the revenue and other economic benefits it would bring. But some key Alaskan politicians, particularly Senator Lisa J. Murkowski, a Republican, was non-committal, saying the mine should only continue operating if there was evidence that it was environmentally safe.
The project was effectively sunk by the Obama administration only to be revived by the Trump White House. Under the Trump administration, the Environmental Protection Agency overturned an earlier decision and allowed the Corps to continue its environmental review.
However, Republican support has never been as bad as some other projects with potential environmental impact, particularly potential oil and gas wells in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, also in Alaska.
The Pebble project even sparked a rare dispute within the Trump family. In August Donald Trump Jr., an avid sportsman who fished in Bristol Bay, tweeted his opposition to the mine: “The headwaters of Bristol Bay and the surrounding fisheries are too unique and fragile to take a risk. #PebbleMine. ”
When asked about his son’s views and prospects for the project in the days that followed, President Trump said only that he was looking at “both sides” of the issue and that politics would not play a role in any decision. However, privately, administration officials said they expected the permit to be approved.
But in September the future of the billion dollar project appeared in doubt When secret records from company executives indicated that they were planning a much larger mine and one that would be in operation for far longer than before proposed to the corps.
The records were obtained from an environmental agency with two members pose as potential investors in the project meeting by video with two project managers. The executives described how the mine can operate 160 years or more beyond the proposed 20 years and how its production can double after the first two decades.