The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) filed a motion to remand the final environmental impact statement (FEIS) and suspend the right-of-way permits issued to the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA) for the Ambler Access Project (AAP) in northwestern Alaska. The DOI said the suspension of the road permits will allow it to carry out additional supplemental work on the FEIS.

In the motion, the DOI requested that the lawsuits filed against the DOI by a coalition of national and Alaska environmental non-government organizations be suspended. The lawsuits were filed in response to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) issuance of the Joint Record of Decision (JROD) that authorized a right-of-way across federally managed lands for AIDEA and the AAP.

Trilogy Metals, the mining company looking to develop the Upper Kobuk Mineral Projects (UKMP) in northwestern Alaska and sharing the cost for the Ambler Access Project with AIDEA, said it will discuss the situation with its partners, including NANA Regional Corp. Inc., the Northwest Arctic Borough, Alaska and South32 Ltd. to understand the potential impact of the DOI’s decision on AIDEA’s proposed plan and budget for the 2022 summer field season activities that were previously announced.

“We see this motion as another step in the consultation process leading to the ultimate development of the Ambler Access Project,” Trilogy President and CEO Tony Giardini said. “We recognize that subsistence is a key factor not just in the development of the road but in the development of the UKMP, which we believe will have significant positive impacts on the local economy, the provision of high-paying stable jobs for Native Alaskans and the production of green metals, such as copper and cobalt which are critical for the decarbonization of the planet.”

Trilogy said the five-year permitting process for the Ambler Access Project was carried out in an exhaustive, extensive, and robust manner with considerable outreach and accommodation to affected communities and other related parties. According to AIDEA, during the scoping period, which was extended from 90 days to more than 330 days, the BLM held 15 public hearings in 13 communities and received more than 7,200 written comments. Subsequently, after the draft EIS was released in August 2019, the BLM held an additional 18 hearings in rural communities, hearings in two hub communities (Anchorage and Fairbanks), and a hearing in Washington, D.C. The BLM received an additional 29,000 written comments to the draft EIS, which were scrutinized and incorporated into the FEIS. AIDEA reiterated that the development and production of the FEIS/JROD, which cost almost $5 million, was an extraordinarily high-quality and comprehensive analysis report.