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By J. P. Tangen
Special to Mining News 

For miners, tomorrow is another day


Last updated 1/24/2016 at Noon

I do love metaphors and aphorisms; there's one for every occasion. For instance, it is often noted that, on the one hand, it is always darkest before the dawn and, on the other, that the light at the end of the tunnel is another train. It would be folly to believe that in today's environment, things will be better, economically, in Alaska, any time soon; however, experience teaches that the current disaster will, like all others, one day pass.

Here's the scenario: Alaska is a resource state heavily dependent upon its resources, primarily oil, but also to some degree mining, for its well-being. The President, in his wisdom, chose to eliminate sanctions against Iran. The Saudis don't like Iran, so they have caused the price of oil to drop, ensuring that Iran does not make as much money as it might hope selling oil into the open market. That also stifled the global price of other commodities, such as gold.

Some supporters of the President intuitively feel that mining is a bad thing, so they have burdened the mining industry with burdensome sanctions. The President is supportive of exotic sources of energy, but they also contribute to the energy glut. China, in an ambitious quest to foster its own unique brand of capitalism, has repeatedly devalued its currency and has halted trading in its newly re-organized stock exchange.

There is a tremendous influx of people in the world, not just in North Africa and the Levant, but also in North America, who are moving north. While certain elements of the receiving communities are resisting such migrations, "opposition is futile." Most of the countries targeted by refugees are either below zero population growth or are close to it. Migrants stereotypically are seeking opportunity, whether in the form of resource development or other forms of productivity, and the current influx is no different.

Obviously, that's not just one train coming at us, it's several.

No matter how long the current politico-economic siege lasts, there is good news for us Alaskans and for those of us who support resource development around the world. The good news is that those who come after us, whether our progeny or newly-minted citizens from foreign lands, will want the benefits of life in an emergent world.

Pause long enough to contemplate how the world changed in the 20th Century from beginning to end, and then extrapolate that over the years past and yet to be in the current century. Notwithstanding the social hiccoughs that we are currently enduring, it is an odds-on certainty that the world before us will be extraordinarily different from the world we know, and every detail of that new world will require the resources we, in Alaska, produce.

It has always been a given premise that the minerals with which Alaska is endowed, whether metallic or hydrocarbons, will be demanded for the balance of the 21st Century and by the ensuing generations which, whether by birth or by migration, want not just a safe haven to live in peace, but also electricity and running water.

Alaskans are currently in a tight corner, and many will not be able to withstand the challenges; but, to paraphrase Robert Service: "It's hell, but [we]'ve been there before."

I take heart from the changed vision of the visitors to Alaska whom I encounter share. Gone are the heady days of crapshooters who came to Alaska with a dream, borne of an echo of the gold rush days that rarely "pans out." Instead, I, at least, am seeing among the newcomers a sense of reality and an awareness that mining and other forms of resource development can be conducted in ways that feed the needs of our civilization without polluting our world.

Service was right: "When I am skinned to a finish, I'll pike to <Alaska> once more."


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