A federal agency on Wednesday issued a draft environmental review for a controversial copper and gold mining project in the Bristol Bay region, home to the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' public hearings on the proposed Pebble Mine's Draft Environmental Impact Statement are next. They will begin March 1 and last 90 days, with hearings in several Bristol Bay and Kenai communities as well as Anchorage's Dena'ina Center in April.

For the company behind the project, Pebble Partnership LLP, it’s a significant step in the mine's vetting by federal and state regulators. That process is now taking place under the business-friendly Republican administrations of President Trump and Gov. Mike Dunleavy.

“Our preliminary review of the DEIS shows no major data gaps or substantive impacts that cannot be appropriately mitigated,” company CEO Tom Collier said in a statement. “We see no significant environmental challenges that would preclude the project from getting a permit.”

But critics have long warned the mine is simply not suited for an area that is home to more than half of the world’s sockeye salmon.

United Tribes of Bristol Bay, a consortium of 15 area tribes, call the document “woefully inadequate.”

“The Army Corps’ review ignores the very real concerns about the changes and devastation Pebble would bring to our region,” said the group’s director, Alannah Hurley, “and is clearly the result a rushed process that has ignored local voices and ignores the existing science in the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment that shows how devastating this project would be in Bristol Bay.”

Once the public hearings have ended, the federal agency will release a final report and a subsequent decision on how the project should move forward, said Corps spokesman John Budnik.

Should the open-pit mine get built, the project would sit close to 200 miles southwest of Anchorage, near salmon-producing headwaters. According to the Corps, Pebble wants to extract 1.4 billion tons of material from the mine during 20 years of active mining.

The project would also feature a nearly 190-mile natural gas pipeline that crosses Cook Inlet, and a tailings dam that would have a 600-foot high embankment.

State lawmakers had varied reactions Wednesday.

Senate Resources Committee Chair Chris Birch, R-Anchorage, says two operating mines in Juneau should serve as examples of responsible development.

“I would say Greens Creek and Kensington mines are prime examples of how to do mining right. People are employed in great jobs, $100,000-plus a year jobs,” he said. “It’s good for the economy. It’s putting people to work and adding value all the way across the board.”

House Rep. Andy Josephson, D-Anchorage, says he would like to make sure this process doesn’t come with a rubber stamp, especially since the document released contains several thousand pages, including an 80-page executive summary. That doesn't give people much time to prepare for the public hearings, he said.

“You know, the developers plan on having this mine site for 78 years,” Josephson said. “I think given that sort of timeline, it’s warranted to have the maximum allowance of time to review their proposal. I’m worried that this is being rushed and I think the people of Alaska should have a full and comprehensive opportunity to review it.”

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