Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. announced that its wholly-owned subsidiary, Alaska-based Pebble Ltd. Partnership and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have reached a settlement agreement with respect to the parties’ longstanding legal dispute over the federal agency’s pre-emptive regulatory action under Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act.

Under the terms of the settlement agreement, the EPA has agreed the Pebble project can proceed into normal course permitting under the Clean Water Act and National Environmental Policy Act. The EPA has agreed it will not file a recommended determination under CWA 404(c) until a final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Pebble project has been completed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) — so long as that occurs within a period of four years following the settlement agreement and PLP files permit applications within 30 months of the date of the settlement agreement. The EPA has further agreed to initiate a process to propose to withdraw the proposed determination it issued under CWA 404(c) in July 2014. In return, the Pebble Partnership has agreed to terminate permanently and with prejudice two lawsuits it brought against the EPA: an action under the Federal Advisory Committee Act and an action under the Freedom of Information Act.

“From the outset of this unfortunate saga, we’ve asked for nothing more than fairness and due process under the law — the right to propose a development plan for Pebble and have it assessed against the robust environmental regulations and rigorous permitting requirements enforced in Alaska and the United States,” said Ron Thiessen, president and CEO. “Today’s settlement gives us precisely that, the same treatment every developer and investor in a stable, first world country should expect.”

The Pebble Partnership will advance a progressive mine plan, including mitigation, to be assessed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other federal and state agencies, including the EPA.

Thiessen said the Pebble Partnership has been advancing planning for a smaller project design at Pebble than previously considered, and one that incorporates significant environmental safeguards.

“It will be a busy and exciting year for Pebble and Alaska,” confirmed Pebble Partnership CEO Tom Collier. “Not only will we be rolling out a project that is smaller, with demonstrable environmental protections, we will also be announcing a number of new initiatives to ensure our project is more responsive to the priorities and concerns of Alaskans.

“We know the Pebble project must not only protect the world-class fisheries of Bristol Bay, it must also benefit the people of the region and the state in a meaningful way. It is our intent to demonstrate how we will meet those goals in the period ahead.”