For 2011, the Pebble Limited Partnership work plan will focus on advancing a Prefeasibility Study (PFS) for the Pebble deposit. The company expects to complete its PFS in 2012, which will lay the groundwork to present a detailed project design for developing the mineral resource at the Pebble deposit.
“The Pebble prospect has tremendous significance globally and, with the potential to bring much-needed jobs to Southwest Alaska, the Partnership is working diligently to develop a mine plan that shows how mining at the prospect can successfully co-exist with the fisheries,” says Pebble Partnership CEO, John Shively.
Work efforts in 2011 will also include the continuation of drilling and environmental programs at site operations in Iliamna, Alaska, stakeholder communication and outreach, and the release of a comprehensive Environmental Baseline Document (EBD). Since 2004, the Pebble Partnership has been conducting on-going environmental studies that will provide extensive background data for the EBD. The EBD specifically characterizes the environment in and around the project area. The company expects to release the EBD later this year.
Work examples for the coming months include air-quality monitoring, fish and wildlife field studies, and surface and ground water monitoring, the latter of which will be incorporated into hydrology modeling. More than 40 third-party consulting firms, representing some of the best scientific minds in the world, have been involved in the research at the Pebble deposit that will provide the basis for the EBD. The program represents one of the most extensive environmental studies programs ever conducted for a mineral development project in the state of Alaska.
Drill footage for the summer program will be slightly less than drilling completed in 2010 but will include sonic drilling, a new type of exploration that samples overburden with less soil column disruption. Sonic drilling, which will take place at Pebble West, utilizes vibrations to advance the drill steel into the ground. Engineering drilling will take place at the planned port site addressing foundation characterization where pilings or foundations for the port facilities are potentially envisioned.
2011 will also see the continuation of the Pebble Partnership’s efforts to develop more opportunities for dialogue with stakeholders through an open forum series moderated by the Keystone Center. The series provides a neutral platform for stakeholders and the general public to learn the facts about the environmental studies undertaken at Pebble, hear about modern mining techniques, efforts and regulations, and provides the opportunity to pose questions to a wide range of scientific experts.
In addition to work at the deposit area, the Pebble Partnership is actively supporting communities throughout Southwest Alaska with educational sponsorships and grant programs. The Pebble Partnership has committed to a five-year, $75,000 annual sponsorship associated with the Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program through the University of Alaska (UAA). ANSEP provides high school mentoring and higher education scholarships for Alaska Native students interested in pursuing engineering and science careers. The Partnership also recently agreed to help sponsor a new program at UAA that focuses on geology careers. The Partnership also enters the second year of its own scholarship program aimed at Southwest Alaska students seeking higher education and vocational training.
In support of its commitment to help develop sustainable communities in Southwest Alaska, the Pebble Partnership remains an active participant in the Pebble Fund, a five-year, $5 million grant program administered by the Alaska Community Foundation. Including the most recent project awards for the spring, which totaled more than $700,000, cumulatively $3.25 million has been distributed in grants to a wide range of projects including the Renewable Energy Greenhouse in Igiugig, powered in part by wind turbines; a food bank distribution center for the communities in Naknek, King Salmon and South Naknek; and the purchase of a science building for the University of Alaska, Bristol Bay Campus.
The Pebble deposit, roughly 200 miles southwest of Anchorage, is located on state of Alaska land designated for mineral exploration as part of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act negotiations. The Pebble Partnership was established in 2007 as a 50/50 partnership between a wholly-owned affiliate of Northern Dynasty Minerals and a wholly-owned subsidiary of Anglo American plc.