ANCHORAGE - U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens said he is hoping to stall the proposed Pebble gold and copper development.
Stevens, R-Alaska, said he has asked federal agencies to take a close look at the project near Iliamna Lake that's proposed by Canadian mining company Northern Dynasty.
The company said Pebble is the largest North American gold deposit and second-largest copper deposit on the continent. Northern Dynasty wants to apply for permits next year and transform Pebble to a working mine by 2011.
The Vancouver-based exploration company has never developed a mine.
The Bristol Bay site sits in the headwaters of some of the most productive commercial, sport and subsistence fisheries in Alaska, in an area dotted with expensive lodges. The region heavily relies on salmon, and even without a mine, some of the major rivers are experiencing declining returns, Stevens said Friday.
A large mine in such a fish-dependent region doesn't necessarily make sense, he said.
"If this was some essential commodity that we absolutely had to have to run our economy it would be a different matter, and even then I would want to have a lot better attention being paid to the environmental process," Stevens said.
Stevens said he has discussed his concerns with Northern Dynasty.
"I told them I didn't like it and I told them I would do my best to slow it down and stop it until they demonstrated an absolute necessity to do what they're doing," Stevens said.
Northern Dynasty executives could not be reached late Friday by the Anchorage Daily News.
Steve Borell, executive director of the Alaska Miners Association, said, "Sen. Stevens is being given bad information."
The environmental review Pebble must go through will take at least three years, Borell said. Northern Dynasty also has delayed applying for permits while it studies a newly discovered mineralized zone on the eastern side of the property, Borell said.
The company has hired consultants exhaustively study the area's resources and environment, he said.
"They have done the most thorough, the most detailed job of environmental baseline studies that I have seen anywhere and they're not even finished yet," Borell said.