The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a Final Determination to block the proposed Pebble copper and gold mining project near Alaska’s ecologically sensitive Bristol Bay watershed, on environmental grounds.

The decision bars Pebble Limited Partnership (PLP) from storing mine waste at Bristol Bay, which is said to host the world’s largest sockeye harvest.

A unit of Northern Dynasty Minerals, Pebble Limited Partnership proposed to develop the Pebble copper-­gold­-molybdenum porphyry deposit (Pebble Deposit) at the headwaters of the pristine Bristol Bay watershed in south-west Alaska, as an open-pit mine, with associated infrastructure.

The latest determination, which has been issued under the Clean Water Act, also bans future mining of the same deposit in the headwaters of Bristol Bay.

The US EPA said in a statement: “With this action, the Biden-Harris Administration is protecting certain waters that are important to sustaining Southwest Alaska’s salmon resources from the disposal of dredged or fill materials associated with developing the Pebble deposit.”

US EPA administrator Michael Regan said: “The Bristol Bay watershed is a vital economic driver, providing jobs, sustenance, and significant ecological and cultural value to the region.

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“With this action, EPA is advancing its commitment to help protect this one-of-a-kind ecosystem, safeguard an essential Alaskan industry, and preserve the way of life for more than two dozen Alaska Native villages.”

EPA Water Assistant Administrator Radhika Fox said the EPA, following a review of the extensive scientific and technical record spanning two decades, determined that specific discharges associated with Pebble deposit development will have ‘unacceptable’ adverse impact on certain salmon fishery areas in the Bristol Bay watershed.

Fox said: “Our Final Determination helps prevent those adverse effects while helping protect a vibrant and magnificent watershed. It’s also important to note that EPA’s action does not apply to current or future resource development projects in Alaska.”

Pebble CEO John Shively called EPA’s decision to block the proposed Pebble mine as ‘unlawful and unprecedented‘.

Shively added: “This preemptive action against Pebble is not supported legally, technically, or environmentally. As such, the next step will likely be to take legal action to fight this injustice.”