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By J. P. Tangen
For Mining News 

It's the most wonderful time of the year

As miners prepare for winter, the industry's focus and support turns to lawmakers who recognize mining's importance to economy

 

Last updated 9/27/2009 at Noon



It's the most wonderful time of the year. Throughout the State state of Alaska, people are starting to make preparations for winter. Placer operators are thinking about the final clean-up, seasonal exploration projects are starting to button up remote camps and winterize field gear, the Alaska Miners Association staff is gathering together the material for the annual convention, and the Alaska Department of Natural Resources is gathering money from claim rent.

Although it is not a major election year, it is also time for those of us who associate ourselves with the mining industry, to start thinking in terms political.

It is pretty easy to forget the State state Legislature about now. They have done almost all the damage they are going to do for this year, and we are still a few months away from when they reconvene for the 2010 session. Actually, cynicism aside, it is appropriate to take a moment to say, publicly, thank you to all those who serve. Even those who have their heads screwed on backwards. For Alaskans, who are perhaps closer to their government than nearly anywhere else in the world, and certainly closer than anywhere else in the United States, it is very easy for us to criticize our state senators and representatives.

There are plenty of things to be critical about, of course. But the stalwart men and women who voluntarily stand before the rest of us and allow us to figuratively strip them naked before we throw stones at them, are entitled to our applause. We have a legislature composed of representatives of the people. In race after race, year in and year out, the outcome often turns on a handful of votes. In Alaska, every vote counts, in every election.

Likewise, every penny spent on legislative elections, is hard to come by and extremely well spent. Don't anticipate me. Just because I am the Treasurer of the Alaska Miners Association Political Action Committee (APAPAC AMAPAC to the uninitiated), that doesn't mean this column will be a shameless pitch for political contributions.

Contested political campaigns are expensive in Alaska, and even uncontested ones are not necessarily free. Therefore, there is good reason for all of us to throw something into the pot in order to support the system every year. At the AMA convention, I and other members of AMAPAC will be making our shameless pitches, of course; however, the point I would like to make right now is simple. Year after year, it is generally the same people who support AMAPAC.

New faces and new contributors are rare - welcomed with open arms - but still rare.

Each year we ponder this problem.

It is totally illogical for people not to support AMAPAC. We have an industry that, even though we have only 5 five large mines, may very well be the second largest contributor to the State's state's economy, depending on how you do the math.

It is a growing industry with new projects in the pipeline and an absolutely amazing exploration sector on the brink of bringing huge projects forward to the pre-production stage.

We have many legislators who are ill-informed about the mining industry, but are anxious to learn.

By all reports, when AMAPAC puts a campaign contribution into their hands, it elevates the industry on their radar screens.

Obviously, mining competes with many, many other public matters for the attention of legislators, but the counterpoint is that, as an industry, our legislative needs are few - usually containing as a common denominator: "legislate Legislate as you will, but first, do no harm."

It should be noted for the record that AMAPAC is non-partisan. Political labels count far less than critical votes. Legislators who recognize the value of the industry and vote to protect it and foster it will be recognized. Those who see things otherwise, we candidly hope to re-educate or, barring that, replace.

It is often said, by me at least, that modern mining in Alaska is a safe, environmentally sound, productive contributor to the economy as a whole. Those who measure the value of an industry by tax revenue seem to overlook the value of good jobs in a community. Wise legislators are able to look beyond Revenue revenue receipts to appreciate the impact that mining makes in Juneau and Kotzebue, Fairbanks and McGrath, Delta and Nome, and, by extension, in Anchorage, with its nearly invisible mining presence.

In brief, I hope to see all of you at the AMA convention this year.

I hope that each of you will go out of your way to track down me or other members of AMAPAC for the purpose of making a contribution to AMAPAC. I hope that you can see that AMAPAC contributions pay dividends for decades into the future.

When North Slope oil is a fond memory, and gas is still just not economic, it will be the miners of Alaska that will pay the wages and keep our communities around the State afloat.

Mining is labor intensive and mining wages are good, a person making US$70,000 or US$80,000 a year can pay for a whole lot of imported groceries and heating oil.

It may not be the exact same money that pays for janitorial services in Juneau, but it certainly supports a vigorous, dynamic Alaska community.

 

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