This story was updated at 3:21 p.m. EDT.
Alaska regulators and a top state lawmaker yesterday joined calls for extending the federal public comment period on the proposed Pebble mine.
Starting April 1, the Army Corps of Engineers will spend 30 days taking comments and holding several public meetings on the scope of its environmental review for the controversial mine in southwestern Alaska.
In a letter this week, the Alaska Department of Natural Resources requested that the period be extended to at least 90 to 120 days, based on the potential risks of such a massive copper and gold mine.
"The proposed Pebble Project envisions an open pit mine, a mile across, near the headwaters of the most prolific salmon fishery in the world," Commissioner Andrew Mack wrote.
Mack noted that the scoping period for the Donlin mine, a proposed gold mining project north of the Pebble site, was 105 days and included 14 public meetings (Greenwire, March 2).
Army Corps Alaska District spokesman John Budnik said no decision has been made on an extension.
"Our team is considering the extended scoping period," Budnik said, "and a decision would have to be made before April 30."
State House Speaker Bryce Edgmon wrote in his own letter: "The scale of mining proposed by Pebble is unprecedented anywhere in Alaska and is particularly alarming in light of the severe adverse impacts it would bring to the Bristol Bay watershed."
The Democrat from Dillingham, the center of Pebble opposition, joined a local chorus calling for a comment period extension.
The Army Corps "has made it clear it will willfully exclude Alaska voices while giving a foreign mining company a prominent platform," said Myrtice Evalt, acting executive director of Alaska Native corporation coalition Nunamta Aulukestai.
Mike Heatwole, a spokesman for Pebble LP, a subsidiary of Canadian firm Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd., said 30 days is "workable."
"We think it is important for stakeholders to differentiate between scoping … and the comment period that will take place for the draft [environmental impact statement], where we expect to hear a range of opinions about the project," he told the Anchorage Daily News.