PUBLISHED: 5:17 PM on Wednesday, May 7, 2008
Pebble to spend $140 million on mine efforts
Backers of the proposed Pebble Mine in Southwest Alaska said April 21 that they have budgeted $140.1 million for 2008, about $15 million more than previously estimated.

Planned activities include a $61.6 million drilling program, $30.2 million in engineering work, $24.9 million in environmental work and $14.8 million for community engagement and public affairs.

The mine site, which lies on state lands at the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed, is rich in copper, gold and molybdenum.

No permit applications have been filed yet with the Alaska Department of Natural Resources.

Sean McGee, a spokesman for the Pebble Partnership, said that Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd., which partnered last November with Anglo American on the mine project, previously estimated spending for 2008 at about $125 million, "but when the budget was completed it was $140 million.

"The numbers we were providing before were conservative," he said. "The company is trying to finalize pre-feasibility (work) late this year or early next. You have to reach certain technical thresholds in drilling and engineering, as well as environmental, to insure that the work is done to the pre-feasibility level.

"It took us some time to build the budget, because we wanted to make sure we had adequate room to advance the project and there are certain requirements to get there," McGee said.

A planned $61.6 million drilling program will upgrade a portion of the mineral resources in the Pebble East deposit to support completion of a pre-feasibility study and to test for the full extent of the deposit.

The $30.2 million engineering program will include detailed metallurgical test work and infrastructure studies.

Another $24.9 million is budgeted for environmental baseline work, in support of the pre-feasibility study and for ongoing monitoring.

Community engagement and public affairs have a budget of $14.8 million to fund public education, project support and stakeholder relations, the company said.

The 2008 site program began in February.

The partnership plans 157,000 feet of resource drilling this year, with the focus on the Pebble East deposit. Six drills rigs are currently on site, with more than 22,500 feet drilled so far this year.

About $220 million has been invested in development of the mine site since 2002, including $87 million on environmental and socio-economic studies, according to the partnership.

The environmental baseline document is expected to be finalized in the first quarter of 2009, and will be used to evaluate various mine design alternatives prior to submission of a proposed development plan for permitting, the partnership said.

Margaret Bauman can be reached at