The struggle for the fate of one of the world’s largest copper and gold ore deposits has been raging for more than a decade. The mining industry and a number of government officials supported the project in terms of the revenues and other economic benefits it generated. But some important Alaskan politicians, notably Senator Lisa J. Murkowski, a Republican, were not obligated, saying the mine should only move forward if it proves to be environmentally friendly.
The project was effectively abolished by the Obama administration, only revived by the Trump White House. Under Trump’s administration, the Environmental Protection Agency reversed an earlier decision to allow the corps to continue its environmental review.
But inter-Republican support has never been as hefty as it was for some other projects with potentially environmental consequences, notably for possible oil and gas drilling at the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, also in Alaska.
The Pebble project even generated a rare controversy within the Trump family. In August, Donald Trump Jr., an avid athlete who fished in the Bristol Bay area, tweeted his opposition to the mine: “The river water in Bristol Bay and the surrounding fisheries is too unique and fragile to take any chances. #PebbleMine. “
President Trump, when asked about his son’s emotions and project prospects in the days that followed, said only that he would “examine both sides of the issue” and that politics does not play a role in any decision. However, administration officials privately said they expected approval of the permit.
But in September, the future of the multibillion-dollar project looked uncertain when company executives ’secret recordings suggested they were planning a much larger mine and operating for much longer than what was proposed to the corps.
The footage was obtained by an environmental advocacy group with two members who announced video to potential investors at the project meeting with two project leaders. Managers described how the mine could operate for 160 or more years beyond the proposed 20 years, and how output could increase after the first two decades.