The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has initiated a process under the Clean Water Act (CWA) to identify options to protect Bristol Bay, including pre-emptively blocking permitting of Northern Dynasty’s Pebble copper-gold mine in Alaska.

The agency ruled Northern Dynasty Ltd.’s proposed Pebble Mine could hurt Alaska populations by reducing fishing stocks. The final ruling won’t advocate changes, but responded to a 2010 petition by Bristol Bay tribes.

The move by the EPA is being condemned by the mining industry as another classic example of government overreach, noting the deposit is one of the largest of its kind worldwide, with a potential of 80.6 billion lb of copper, 107.4 million gold oz and 5.6 billion lb of molybdenum over decades.

John Shively, Chief of the Pebble Limited Partnership, called the report "poorly conceived and poorly executed, and cannot serve as the scientific basis for decisions concerning Pebble;" the Partnership was formed to design, permit and run the mine.

Northern Dynasty president and CEO Ron Thiessen, meanwhile, echoed the sentiment. EPA regulators, he said in a statement, "set out to do a flawed analysis;" EPA officials cited a Northern Dynasty plan and consultations with mining experts.

Jason Metrokin, CEO of Bristol Bay Native Corp. said he supported "responsible development without unacceptable risks to the people of our region,” and that “the Pebble mine is not such a project;" Bristol Bay produces 46% of global sockeye salmon.

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