US $59 Million Work Program to Prepare Pebble Project for Permitting
Friday, March 20th, 2009
Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. announces that the Pebble Limited Partnership Board of Directors has approved a US $59 million budget and work plan for 2009, with the potential for supplemental spending up to a total of US $70 million, to be spent towards completing a Prefeasibility Study and preparing the Pebble Project for permitting in 2010.
Pending the outcome of engineering trade-off studies currently underway, the PLP Board is expected to meet in August 2009 to finalize the Prefeasibility Study schedule and authorize additional program expenditures this year.
“The primary focus of the Pebble Partnership team in 2009 will be to produce the optimal project design, from an environmental, social and economic perspective,” said Northern Dynasty President & CEO Ron Thiessen. “Not only does PLP expect to finalize a Prefeasibility Study, it will also be preparing to enter the state and federal permitting process under NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) in 2010.
“These are significant project goals and milestones, and the PLP Board of Directors has approved an equally ambitious budget and work program for 2009.”
The Pebble Partnership was established in July 2007 as a 50:50 partnership between a wholly-owned affiliate of Northern Dynasty and a wholly owned subsidiary of Anglo American plc. To retain its 50% interest, Anglo American is required to provide $1.425 billion to advance the Pebble Project toward permitting and operations — including those funds authorized for expenditure in 2009. Northern Dynasty and Anglo American have equal representation on the PLP Board of Directors.
Approved budget expenditures at the Pebble Project in 2009 include:
a site investigation program to undertake resource drilling and support environmental studies;
an engineering program to finalize trade-off studies in preparation for the completion of a Prefeasibility Study;
an environmental study program to continue baseline data collection in key areas (e.g. hydrology, water quality, fish resources), and to compile and analyze collected data from previous years toward the completion of the Environmental Baseline Document in 2010;
a public affairs program to engage communities and project stakeholders, and to advance initiatives in the areas of workforce development, business development and public education; and corporate and administrative costs.
These approved expenditures are expected to be supplemented by additional engineering and site investigation activities in the latter half of 2009, including geotechnical and metallurgical drilling. Additional program details will not be known until a supplemental budget is authorized.
“Over five years of intensive geological, environmental, socioeconomic and engineering study, the Pebble Partnership has established an extremely robust database of information with which to design, permit, build and operate a financially robust, environmentally sound and socially responsible project,” Thiessen said. “All of that effort will be brought to bear this year with the timely development of a Prefeasibility Study that will position the Pebble Partnership to initiate project permitting in 2010.”
Some US $360 million has been invested in the Pebble Project since Northern Dynasty acquired the property in 2001, including US $180 million expended by Anglo American in 2007 and 2008.
The Pebble Project site is located on state land in southwest Alaska designated for mineral exploration and development. It is approximately 1,000 feet above sea-level, 65 miles from tidewater on Cook Inlet and presents few technical challenges for successful mine site and infrastructure development.
Project leadership is provided by Pebble Partnership CEO John Shively, a former Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources and senior executive with NANA Regional Corporation (partners with Teck in the Red Dog zinc mine in northwest Alaska). Over the past year, Mr. Shively has assembled a team of respected resource development professionals in Anchorage to lead the Pebble Project into permitting — including Vice President of Environment Ken Taylor, a former Deputy Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish & Game.
The Partnership has also assembled a world-class engineering and permitting team to prepare a Prefeasibility Study for the Pebble Project, including 20 senior engineers and technical specialists (many consulting from Anglo American), assisted by 58 engineering firms and specialized consultancies from around the world.
“Pebble has the potential to become a modern, long-life mine that could produce up to one-quarter of America’s domestic copper supply for more than 50 years, as well as substantial volumes of gold, molybdenum and other metals,” Thiessen said. “At the same time, project stakeholders in Alaska expect Pebble to generate significant benefits for local communities and the state, and protect important environmental and cultural values.
“A project of this stature requires a first-class development team that’s committed to setting new standards for environmental and social performance, and that’s exactly what the Pebble Partnership represents.”
With Anglo American’s requirement to fund the Pebble Project in order to retain its 50% interest, Northern Dynasty is not expected to face any significant financial commitments until permitting is complete and project construction is underway. The company has a favorable cash position, with reserves of US $37 million, and a shareholder base that includes two of the largest mining and metals companies in the world. Rio Tinto owns 19.8% of Northern Dynasty shares; Mitsubishi Corp. recently reported an increased share position of 11%.
For further information visit: www.northerndynasty.com