Alaska mine developer Northern Dynasty has announced that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has withdrawn its proposed restrictions on mining operations in Alaska’s Bristol Bay.

The restrictions were initiated by the Obama Administration in 2014 under Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act for the use of the Pebble Deposit Area in Southwest Alaska as a disposal site associated with mining of the deposit.

In 2014, the EPA proposed limits on large-scale mining in Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed, citing environmental concerns.

Northern Dynasty’s site is located near Lake Iliamna in southwestern Alaska between the headwaters of two rivers that drain into Bristol Bay, reported Reuters.

Northern Dynasty president and CEO Ron Thiessen said: “Today’s announcement means the Environmental Impact Statement and permitting process for the Pebble Project currently being led by the US Army Corps of Engineers may advance to a final Record of Decision in 2020 without the cloud of uncertainty created by EPA’s unprecedented, pre-emptive regulatory action.

“The Corps expects to finalise the Pebble EIS in early 2020 and issue a final Record of Decision by the middle of next year.”

The company’s pebble mine is expected to produce 70Mt of gold, molybdenum and copper ore per annum and create a pit which is 1,970ft deep.

Development of the mine, near one of the world’s biggest sockeye salmon fisheries, has faced opposition from environmentalists, native groups and fishermen for years, the news agency added.

EPA Region 10 administrator Chris Hladick said: “After today’s action, EPA will focus on the permit review process for the Pebble Mine project.

“The agency has worked closely with the Army Corps to engage with stakeholders and the public on this issue, which has resulted in an expansive public record, including specific information about the proposed mining project that did not exist in 2014.”

The United Tribes of Bristol Bay, a consortium of 15 tribal governments, calls the mine ‘a toxic project’ that would destroy the world’s last great sockeye salmon fishery for the profit of a foreign mining company.

Bristol Bay Native Association CEO Ralph Andersen said: “The fact that the EPA would withdraw protections for Bristol Bay after the very same agency stated that the proposed Pebble mine could devastate our region makes no sense.”

Last January, the company’s subsidiary Pebble Limited Partnership secured approval from the US Army Corps of Engineers for the Clean Water Act 404 permitting documentation.