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By Patricia Jones
Mining News Editor 

Improving mineral development

Alaska Minerals Commission makes recommendations to state lawmakers to reduce constraints on mineral development

 

Last updated 3/14/2004 at Noon



In a 16-page report released in January, the Alaska Minerals Commission made 12 recommendations to the state Legislature and Governor on ways to mitigate constraints on mineral development in Alaska.

In addition, the commission identified seven federal issues of concern and made suggestions that the state and/or the governor should pursue to rectify those issues.

Recommendations include suggestions involving government regulatory reform, access and infrastructure development, state's rights issues, data acquisition, regional economic development and supporting mineral education and research.

The report evolved from a teleconference work session and a public meeting held in Anchorage by the 11-member commission, made up of representatives from Alaska's placer, hard rock and coal mining industries.

Irene Anderson, Alaska Minerals Commission chair, represented the Bering Straits Native Corp. on the panel. In her 2004 report message, she commented on the limited success of recommendations the same industry panel made in 2003.

"Highlights during 2003, however, were limited to completion of expedited land transfers along the Denali Highway, and legislation to address the public interest litigants issue," Anderson wrote. "These actions were important incremental gains, but significant obstacles to mining industry growth and desperately needed rural development remain."

Industry overview

The report provided a synopsis of Alaska's $1 billion annual mining industry. Contributions from the state's four large mines - Red Dog zinc and lead mine in northwest Alaska, Fort Knox gold mine near Fairbanks, Greens Creek polymetallic mine near Juneau and Usibelli Coal Mine at Healy were noted.

"All turned in a strong performance and contributed significantly to the employment base and economic vitality of their respective host communities and rural regions," the report said.

Four development projects were also noted, including Pogo near Delta Junction, Kensington near Juneau, Donlin Creek in remote southwest Alaska and Rock Creek near Nome. All four are hard rock gold properties in various stages of development.

Despite these developments, the report said, "… the potential benefits of a healthy and growing mining industry as an engine for economic development in Alaska remain elusive, particularly in rural areas of the state where they are needed most."

Overcoming obstacles

Increases in metal market prices stimulated additional exploration activity at known mineral occurrences near transportation corridors in Alaska, the report said.

Despite those upward market trends and a global expanding mining industry due to "explosive demand for mineral commodities," Alaska's mining industry has some significant hurdles to overcome.

"Alaska is one of the most poorly mapped regions of the world and ranks far behind many third world countries in spending for geologic data acquisition," the report said. "… Poor infrastructure, a minimal geologic database and the perception that Alaska can be a difficult place to do business continue as disincentives to exploration investment."

Stimulating exploration and improving the state's business climate are key to improving Alaska's mining industry.

"Alaska's mineral rich terrain and high discovery potential are universally acknowledged, but mining industry growth will not reach its potential without an increase in exploration activity and continued improvement in the business climate," the report said.

Other members of the Alaska Minerals Commission are Eric Neil MacKinnon from Hyak Mining Co. in Juneau, Del Ackels of Goldust Mines in Fairbanks, Leo Mark Anthony of C-D Development Co. of Anchorage, Greg Beischer of Bristol Environmental & Engineering in Anchorage, Charles Boddy of Usibelli Coal Mine in Healy, Karl Hanneman of Teck-Pogo Inc. in Fairbanks, Rich Heig of Kennecott Greens Creek Mining Co of Juneau, Charlotte MacCay of Bristol Environmental & Engineering of Anchorage, Lance D. Miller of the Juneau Economic Development Council of Juneau and Ron Sheardown of Greatland Exploration Ltd. of Anchorage.

The commission is supported by Rich Harris, mining and minerals development specialist in the Alaska Division of Trade and Development, part of the state Department of Community and Economic Development.

 

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