What happened

Shares of would-be goldminer Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd (NYSEMKT:NAK), the company that is hoping to open up a "Pebble" goldmining project in Alaska, surged more than 12% in early Wednesday trading, before settling down to enjoy a more muted gain of 4.1% as of 11:45 p.m. EDT.

So what

On Tuesday, after close of trading, Northern Dynasty announced that the US Environmental Protection Agency has agreed to withdraw its 2014 Clean Water Act Proposed Determination.

If left in place, this determination would have restricted Northern Dynasty's ability to develop its Pebble Project. Removed, however, it now permits Northern Dynasty to proceed with obtaining a final Environmental Impact Statement for the Pebble Project from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Assuming a positive finding from the Corps, Northern Dynasty will be able to proceed with obtaining a permit to begin mining, according to the "normal course" for obtaining such permits.

A car on tracks inside a gold mine.

Image source: Getty Images.

Now what

Although this is good news for Northern Dynasty, it was hardly unexpected. It has been known as far back as May that Northern Dynasty had a settlement agreement in place with the EPA that would permit this.

What remains unknown is whether the Corps will indeed give Northern Dynasty a positive environmental impact statement. And even if the Corps gives it the all clear, we also don't know whether Northern Dynasty will be able to attract the kind of funding it will need to make the Pebble Project a success. Northern Dynasty said in its statement on Tuesday that it "is now focused on qualifying and securing a new major funding partner for the Pebble Project" -- meaning it does not yet have one in hand.

For that matter, even assuming everything else works out right, there's still no guarantee Northern Dynasty will find enough gold, and be able to extract it profitably enough, to make the Pebble Project a success.

Profitless, revenue-less, and with only $42 million in cash in the bank, Northern Dynasty Minerals stock remains a speculative investment.

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.