March 20, 2014
ANCHORAGE - A state judge has found that a Bristol Bay community’s initiative to restrict large-scale mining in the region conflicts with existing state authority to do so, a victory for backers of the proposed Pebble Mine.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock’s Wednesday decision grants the Pebble Limited Partnership summary judgment in its challenge of the Lake and Peninsula Borough’s “Save Our Salmon” initiative.
The measure, which passed by 37 votes during October 2011 polls in the 1,600-person borough, would bar mines larger than 640 acres from having an “adverse effect” on coastal resources or the balance of resources within the region.
In a 29-page opinion, Suddock says the initiative would not constitute an effective ban on large-scale mining, as argued by opponents. In his view, however, the case turned on whether the borough initiative could countermand the state’s regulatory authority over mines -- a conclusion he denied, noting that state lawmakers have granted the Department of Natural Resources “charge of all matters affecting the mineral resources of the state.”