Dunleavy sees bright Alaska mining future
If White House allows state to produce minerals the U.S. needs North of 60 Mining News – May 13, 2022
Last updated 5/12/2022 at 2:40pm
FAIRBANKS, Alaska (May 10, 2022) – "We truly have a bright future for mining in the state if we are allowed to pursue it," was the message Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy delivered to the more than 250 people that gathered to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Alaska Mining Day.
While commemorating the intrepid pioneers that first ventured North in pursuit of Alaska's rich mineral potential and celebrating the mining's current contributions to the state's economy, Dunleavy said the state's mining sector's future is being held back by a federal government that ironically is in need of Alaska's abundant natural resources.
A preliminary look at a report being prepared by the McKinley Research Group shows that Alaska's mining industry injected more than $2 billion into the state economy during 2021.
Commissioned by the Alaska Miners Association and Council of Alaska Producers, "The economic benefits of Alaska's mining industry" report found that nearly half of the mining money injected into the state's economy goes directly into the pockets of Alaskans. According to the report, $985 million in wages were paid to some 10,800 people either working directly on Alaska mining projects or in service, supply, and other jobs induced by the sector.
The average wage for those working directly for Alaska's mining operations was roughly $130,000, providing hefty paychecks to workers that live in 95 communities across the state.
In addition, mining and mineral exploration projects spent $640 million for goods and services provided by more than 400 Alaska businesses; paid $161 million in royalty payments to Alaska Native corporations; paid $83 million in state mining licenses, taxes, rents, royalties, and other fees; paid $44 million in local taxes and payments; gave $3.3 million in donations to around 250 Alaska non-profits; and invested $1.1 million to support education in the state.
"These numbers are impressive, but even more impressive is our potential," said Gov. Dunleavy.
"We have so much to offer – we have the richest graphite project in the country, Graphite One on the Seward Peninsula; we a have a rich copper-cobalt prospect at Bornite in the Ambler Mining District; at Bokan Mountain, we know we have many of the rare earth elements required for our high-tech society; Donlin will be one of the biggest producers of gold in the world once it starts to operate," he continued.
The cobalt, copper, graphite, and rare earths touted by the governor are critical to the electric vehicles and renewable energy infrastructure required for the low-carbon energy future envisioned by the Biden administration.
The World Bank estimates that roughly 550 million tons of copper will be needed for low-carbon technologies such as wind turbines, solar panels, and electric vehicles over the next 25 years, which is roughly equivalent to the total copper mined globally since the dawn of the Bronze Age some 5,000 years ago.
In addition, roughly 1.6 billion lb of cobalt and 8.6 billion lb of graphite, which is roughly four times the total amount mined globally last year, along with 360 million lb of rare earths, will be needed each year to hit the EV sales benchmarks set by global governments and automakers.
Despite this critical need, there was no graphite or cobalt mined in the U.S. last year and the mixed rare earth products produced in California had to be shipped to China where they were separated into the individual elements needed for EVs, wind turbines, and other high-tech applications.
Dunleavy said graphite, cobalt, rare earths, and other minerals needed for the White House energy policies could be produced in Alaska without the environmental and human rights concerns that are imported with these materials sourced from places like China and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
"If you want to protect the environment, you do it here in America, and if you really want to protect the environment, you do it here in Alaska," he said. "Alaska would be better off for it, the world would be better off for it, and we will improve our national security."
The governor informed the mining community gathered in Fairbanks that efforts to realize Alaska's mineral potential has been met with resistance from Washington D.C.
Earlier this year, federal agencies filed a motion to rescind the permits for the Ambler Access Project and suspended the right-of-way across 25 miles of federal land needed for this proposed 211-mile road to the Ambler Mining District, a region of Northwest Alaska enriched with copper, cobalt, zinc, and other minerals critical to the Biden administration's energy and infrastructure initiatives.
"Rather than encourage and support development in places like the Ambler District, the Biden administration is trying to stop it," Dunleavy said.
White House efforts to stop natural resource development in Alaska prompted the governor to establish the Statehood Defense initiative, which was funded by state legislators last year.
"We shouldn't have to spend millions of our own dollars fighting our own federal government," Dunleavy said, likening the efforts to stop Alaska resource development to sanctions on the state.
"I prefer to have a federal ally instead of an adversary, but this is where we are at," he added.
Toward the goal of building a reluctant alliance, the governor's office hopes the White House gets the message that President Biden's renewable energy and EV ambitions need the cobalt, copper, graphite, rare earths, and other minerals Alaska's mining sector has to offer.
"We are going to do everything we can to support you because your industry produces jobs, opportunity, creates wealth and revenue for the state of Alaska," he told the crowd gathered in Fairbanks to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Alaska Mining Day.