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By J. P. Tangen
For Mining News 

'We gotta get out of this place,' again!

Our government, academia and press institutions seem committed to inaction at a point in history where leadership is badly needed


Last updated 4/29/2012 at Noon

In the waning days of the Vietnam Mistake, the popular lyrics of the Animals' most famous hit were in the hearts and on the lips of every soldier. The nation was divided. It seemed like we couldn't go forward, we didn't want to go backward, and remaining in place was impossible. Indecision was endemic and leadership was lacking. A popular, charismatic and totally inexperienced president had allowed us to get sucked into foreign entanglements, and a sinister megalomaniac got us out. Today, "this place" is not a geographical reference, but it certainly is a sociographic one.

It is hard to imagine a time when a captivating rhetorician like President Barack Obama had fewer leadership skills. He essentially took over an economy which was, in his words, "in a ditch" and proceeded to get the tow truck stuck. The national economy is flailing. The global economy is worse. Congress is divided on virtually everything, except the commitment to give the President nothing. The President is committed to govern by Executive Order. Even the Supreme Court is narrowly divided, with every significant decision hanging on the whim of a single swing justice.

Extrapolating from the general to the specific, the work that crosses my desk on a regular basis has reflected a sea change in substance. Where generally my clients were derived from the pool of Canadian exploration juniors who raised equity capital in pursuit of new projects, they now are often mature companies massaging known opportunities and gaining sustenance from sideline lenders. Litigation to compel third parties to simply comply with their obligations is on the upswing. The market for metals is relatively flat, the Dow cannot decide whether it will be over 13,000 or under 13,000, or just be 13,000.

The upcoming election is dreary. The incumbent is having trouble raising anything like the enthusiastic capital he will need to carry favorable supporters into office on his coattails. The GOP pretender has half of the Republican constituency (those who are still awake) holding its collective nose. The likelihood that there will be a massive change in the congressional orientation is nonexistent. In truth, irrespective of what happens in November, we will have four more years of this. We gotta get out of this place.

Another by-product of the Vietnam experience was a book titled, "Military Justice is to Justice as Military Music is to Music" by Robert Sherill. The title of the book tells the whole story, but it suggests a broader principle: political science is to science as military music is to music as well. A huge part of the domestic dilemma we are facing flows from the lack of insightful analysis that we are given by those who are charged with framing public opinion. Academia and the press, like our other institutions are failing in their obligation to synthesize a palatable solution to our national brain freeze.

The good news, however, is that if, as it appears might be the case, the status quo is our destiny for the next quadrennial.

We can live with that.

Alaska's mines and miners continue to chug forward.

The price of metals may be flat, but the costs of recovery are relatively flat as well.

Government interference is a nuisance, but so is a swarm of mosquitoes.

Production from established projects seems solid while impending ones roll steadily forward.

Major failures, thank goodness, are unheard of.

In essence, the industry, as a whole, has a promising field season to look forward to.

In a very major sense, notwithstanding the political maelstrom that may be churning around our heads, in Alaska we are fortunate to have our feet solidly on the ground.

Politically, 2012 may prompt us to resurrect the Animals, but one thing that business always gravitates toward is stability - in essence, change is the enemy. Perhaps it's true that we've got to get out of this place someday, but for now we are in the eye of the storm, and it's not all that bad a place to be.


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