Dunleavy talks Ambler District cooperation
Looks forward to road development relationships in NW Alaska North of 60 Mining News - August 20, 2021
Last updated 8/19/2021 at 3:48pm
Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy highlighted the importance of cooperation between Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) corporations and their shareholders, state organizations, and mining companies during a recent visit to the Ambler Mining District in Northwest Alaska.
"Collaboration begins with trust," he said. "When we work together and develop our state's resources responsibly, we can achieve incredible outcomes for all Alaskans."
Having spent nearly two decades as a teacher, principal, and superintendent in the Northwest Arctic School District where the Red Dog zinc mine is located, Dunleavy has seen firsthand the economic benefits a world-class mine can bring to rural regions of Alaska.
The development of this mine was the result of the mining company Teck Resources Ltd., then Cominco, and NANA, the ANCSA regional corporation for Northwest Alaska, setting aside their differences to negotiate a deal that allowed for the development of Red Dog. This spirit of cooperation was further extended to the state when the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA) agreed to build the Delong Mountain Transportation System, a road and port facility that provided a way to deliver zinc and lead concentrates from Red Dog to world markets.
The quasi-state-owned development authority worked with private investors to finance construction of the DMTS, and the costs of road and port construction were paid back through tolls paid by the mine for use of the road. No state general funds were used to construct the DMTS.
Over the years, AIDEA has recouped the US$267 million it invested in building and maintaining DMTS and pays a dividend to state coffers from the profits it gets from ongoing tolls. Thanks to a successful project like DMTS, AIDEA has been responsible for directing more than $3 billion in economic development in Alaska since 1967 and has paid $439.7 million in dividends to Alaska since 1997.
DMTS is serving as the model for funding, building, and operating the Ambler Access Project, a proposed 211-mile industrial access road that will be vital to unlocking the rich mineral potential of the Ambler Mining District, a world-class copper-zinc belt with extensive deposits of gold and silver as well as a domestic resource for the critical minerals required by our nation's tech-focused economy.
"The Red Dog Mine has now provided three generations of high-skilled, good-paying jobs for local residents," said AIDEA Chairman Dana Pruhs. "Our goal is to provide access to help responsibly develop economic opportunities for local communities and families in the region along the access route with the development of the Ambler Access Project."
Ambler Metals, a 50-50 joint venture partnership between Trilogy Metals Inc. and South32 Ltd., is advancing the permitting and development of mines in the Ambler District in partnership with NANA, the Northwest Alaska Native regional corporation.
According to a 2020 feasibility study, a mine at the Arctic deposit in the Ambler District would produce 1.9 billion pounds of copper, 2.3 billion lb of zinc, 388 million lb of lead, 386,000 ounces of gold, and 40.6 million oz of silver over an initial 12-year mine life.
Ambler Metals' UKMP also hosts Bornite, a world-class copper-cobalt deposit about 16 miles southwest of the proposed Arctic Mine, as well as a series of volcanogenic massive sulfide deposits and occurrences along a 70-mile (100 kilometers) belt that runs across the Ambler Mining District.
Mines at Arctic, Bornite, and other deposits developed in the district would produce concentrates that need to be shipped to refineries. The ability to truck these concentrates to the Alaska railhead at Fairbanks is the primary reason the Ambler Road is needed.
The route involves five landowners, including the Northwest Arctic Borough and two ANCSA regional corporations – Doyon Ltd. and NANA.
AIDEA, which is leading the permitting and potential development of the Ambler Road, says active and continuous collaboration between the Alaska Native landowners, tribal leaders, village elders, the private sector, and state and federal entities led to a joint record of decision issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Land Management in July that approves development of the access road.
To best preserve and protect the rights of subsistence users along the route, a Subsistence Advisory Committee Working Group is being established amongst the regional stakeholders. This working group will establish the framework and composition of a committee that will help identify road crossing locations used for subsistence and other local travel, in addition to providing input into road operations to minimize the potential for adverse effects on subsistence access.
"I look forward to seeing the resources, experience, and relationships within the region come together to listen and share their valuable perspectives from the Subsistence Advisory Committee to see this project provide a sustainable economic base for families in the region," said Dunleavy.