What happened

Shares Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. (NYSEMKT:NAK) popped again on Tuesday and were up 12% at 2:45 p.m. EDT. That continued the gold-mine developer's recent string of rallies that have taken the stock up 27% over the past week.

So what

Today's rally, like the ones over the past week, is directly related to last week's announcement that the company's wholly-owned U.S. subsidiary Pebble Limited Partnership has signed a deal with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. For a refresher, it filed a Joint Motion in federal court to "extend a stay of proceedings in the parties' long-standing legal dispute over the federal agency's pre-emptive regulatory action under Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act to May 11, 2017." With that deadline drawing closer, investors are getting increasingly optimistic that the company will finalize a settlement so it can take the next step toward developing its Alaskan Pebble Deposit, the world's largest undeveloped copper and gold resource.

Large gold nugget and $100 bills

Image source: Getty Images.

That said, the resolution with the EPA is just one step in a long process before the company can ever turn Pebble's mineral riches into cash flow for shareholders. Northern Dynasty Minerals also would need to re-partner the project, so it has the money to help finance development. Furthermore, it needs to reposition the project to regain public support. In the meantime, it has a slew of permits, studies and other agreements to complete before it can start construction -- which, if everything goes according to plan, wouldn't begin until 2020. That would put the company on pace to start producing from the mine in 2024.

Now what

Northern Dynasty Minerals believes it is sitting on the largest untapped deposit of copper and gold in the world. However, getting to that buried treasure has proven to be excruciatingly challenging. While the project is starting to move in the right direction, it will be years before investors see tangible value in the form of production and cash flow. This stock remains nothing more than a vehicle for traders hoping to earn a big payday should the company finally get the green light to develop this project.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.