IPOP sues U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for permit issuance
By Diana Haecker
IPOP LLC, Rivers of Gold, Global TV Show, and two individuals, Edward and Elaine Abell brought civil action in a federal court against the U.S. Corps of Engineers alleging the Corps is unlawfully withholding and unreasonably delaying a permit decision for IPOP’s proposed plan to mine for gold in Bonanza Channel.
IPOP, a Nevada registered LLC, has proposed to dredge for gold in Bonanza Channel, using a cutterhead dredge, and filming the mining for a reality TV show “Rivers of Gold.”
The lawsuit was filed on May 20, .2022 in the U.S District Court for the Western District of Louisiana and lists as defendants the U.S. Corps of Engineers, the United States Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth and Scott Spellmon, the Chief of Engineers and Commanding General of the U.S. Corps of Engineers.
In a 39-page court document the plaintiffs allege the Corps has refused to make a permit determination. The document starts with an overview riddled with inaccuracies, saying “IPOP has made a gold discovery in the Seward Peninsula in the Bonzai channel – potentially worth billions of dollars.” Presumably, the document refers to Bonanza channel, as no Bonzai channel exists in the area of question. Discovery implies proof of the resource. But for the lack of core drilling, an actual determination of the quality and quantity of the purported resource was never established.
The document alleges that the permitting process put undue burden on IPOP as it experienced a “multi-year process in which the Corps has caused outrageous delays, escalating demands for information, treated IPOP’s project in a manner that stands in striking contrast to its treatment of other similarly situated projects and by all appearances has attempted deliberately to obstruct the project, contrary to the public interest and in favor of the private interest of certain project opponents who exercise undue influence on Corps decision making.”
The plaintiffs allege the Corps demands “unlawful” studies, deny that endangered species frequent the area, allege that the site is “incompatible with salmon” and that the bottom of the channel is thickly covered with invasive pondweeds. Despite the fact that the area is known as an ice seal nursery, the document asserts “No IPOP representative has ever seen any ESA listed species on IPOP’s mining claims throughout the permitting process, and upon information and belief, neither has anyone else.”
At one point, the document speculates on “hidden motives” by project opponents, “having been told by project supporters in Nome that project opponents hoped to drive IPOP from Alaska and salvage its equipment to dredge the gold for themselves. IPOP had concluded that what was really going on, with the witting or unwitting collaboration of the Corps, was that the Bering Straits Native Corporation, owner of Alaska Gold LLC, and the owner of 69,000 acres of mineral rights adjacent to IPOP’s was trying to exercise control over the lands and/or mineral rights it had given up in a 1979 settlement agreement with the State of Alaska., and which IPOP now leased.”
After 37 pages of a detailed timeline of interactions with permitting agencies and the perceived unfair treatment by the Corps, the document states that “injunctive relief is required to avoid continuing irreparable injury to plaintiffs as plaintiff Abell is eighty-four years old. He and many investors in the project, may well die before IPOP ever commences operations, and their abuse at the hands of defendants cries out for a remedy.”
Plaintiffs in their lawsuit demand “an order or judgement compelling defendants to cause a final decision to be made on the permit within thirty days. “
The lawsuit was filed May 20. As of deadline on Tuesday, July 12, no government response to the complaint was entered on Pacer and no permit determination has been made.
The Nome Nugget contacted the Dept. of Justice for comment. “We’re going to decline to comment,” responded DoJ spokesperson Danielle Blevins. The Corps also declined to comment on any IPOP related question.
Two days before the lawsuit was filed, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service transmitted a letter to the Corps, recommending the Corps deny the permit application. USFWS concluded after review of the project proposal that the proposed discharge from the IPOP project would likely result in substantial degradation of the aquatic ecosystem and that IPOP has not provided necessary information to evaluate impacts and that their methods used to gather some of the information were not appropriate. “The proposed project results in replacing fully functioning wetlands (much of which are special aquatic sites) with created wetlands that, at best will have a temporal delay before becoming functional, and at worst may fail to replace the functions and values they were intended to replace,” wrote the USFWS. “Therefore, we recommend the USACE invoke its authority under 33 U.S.C.§1344c to deny the permit for the proposed project based on the potentially substantial adverse effects to the special aquatic sites and the lack of proven mitigation and reclamation measures.”