A newly released document from the Pebble Partnership outlines its latest plans for a mine in the Bristol Bay region -- but tribes in the area are calling the filing misleading and inconsistent.

The Army Corp of Engineers confirms the Pebble permit application process is done. The final application, thousands of pages long, is posted on the federal agency’s website.

Sketches made by Pebble Partnership show the mine site is about 30 miles north of Iliamna Lake and plans include an 83-mile transportation corridor through Iliamna Lake by ferry, transitioning to a private road, then another ferry across Cook Inlet all the way to Happy Valley on the Kenai Peninsula. Pebble Partnership also wants to build a 188-mile-long gas pipeline from the Kenai across Cook Inlet.

The Pebble Partnership said the project has been redesigned in response to concern in the region, and that the mine will be half of its originally planned size. The open-pit copper and gold mine would take four years to build and operate for 20 years. It would mine 90 million tons of ore per year and employ about 2,000 workers.

Pebble's CEO Tom Collier said before the group applied for the permits, it spent a decade doing third-party environmental research. The new plans have “significant environmental safeguards” including the absence of cyanide and the separation of potentially acid generating tailings for storage.

“We believe that as Alaskans become more familiar with our proposed project design and the environmental safeguards it incorporates, there will an increasing degree of support for the project, and the significant economic potential it represents for the State of Alaska,” Collier said.

However, the United Tribes of Bristol Bay says the new plans for the mine is much bigger than the one Pebble has been pitching to them the last six months. In a statement, the tribes say the mine will devastate the fishery there, which holds the world's largest supply of salmon.

“The science on such a project is already available, and already clear: this mine will devastate the Bristol Bay fishery," tribal officials said. "Bristol Bay residents will continue to fight this project and protect the water that has sustained our way of life since time immemorial.”

Over the next 30 days, the Army Corp of Engineers will look for a third party to help them with the environmental review process. However, there’s something that’s complicating that effort. Since the Pebble Partnership has done so much of the research on their own, spokesperson Mike Heatwole says the federal government could have a hard time finding a company that hasn’t worked on the project.

Heatwole says the permitting process could take up to five years. The next step in the process is to hold public input meetings across the region, including in Anchorage. Those will probably start this spring, in April.

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