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By Shane Lasley
Mining News 

Resolved to build Ambler Road safeguards

North of 60 Mining News - March 6, 2024


Last updated 3/7/2024 at 6:25pm

Ambler Access Project Subsistence Advisory Committee passes resolution for policies to protect fish and wildlife, and keep road private.

Leveraging nearly four decades of success when it comes to protecting and managing subsistence resources along the 50-mile road that connects the Red Dog Mine to a port on Alaska's west coast, the Ambler Access Project Subsistence Advisory Committee (SAC) passed a resolution to establish policies that will protect subsistence resources along the 211-mile road that will connect the Ambler Mining District to Alaska's highway system to the east.

"We're not just building a road; we're forging a legacy for our children, guided by the wisdom of our ancestors," said Larry Westlake Sr., co-chair of the Ambler Access Project Subsistence Advisory Committee from the village of Kiana. "This is our journey, our responsibility, and our commitment to the well-being of our communities. This subsistence policy resolution does this exactly."

World-class Ambler District

The Ambler Access Project, more widely known as the Ambler Road, would provide a means of delivering mineral concentrates produced at mines in the world-class Ambler District to processing plants that would recover the copper, zinc, silver, gold, cobalt, and other metals.

Ambler Metals, a joint venture equally owned by Trilogy Metals Inc. and South32 Ltd., plans to develop mines in the district if the road regains federal approvals and is developed.

The JV has a 448,217-acre land package that covers the advanced staged Arctic Mine project and more than a dozen similar volcanogenic massive sulfide targets on state lands in the Ambler District, plus the world-class Bornite copper-cobalt deposit and similar carbonate-hosted prospects on land owned by NANA, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) corporation for the Northwest Arctic region of Alaska.

A 2020 feasibility study for Arctic detailed plans for a financially robust open-pit mine and processing plant that 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.

This operation is based on 43 million metric tons of reserves averaging 2.32% copper, 3.24% zinc, 0.57% lead, 0.49 grams per metric ton gold, and 36 g/t silver.

Bornite, which is expected to be the second mine in the Ambler District, hosts 202.7 million metric tons of inferred resource averaging 1.46% (6.51 billion lb) copper. The deposit also hosts around 88 million lb of cobalt.

The positive economics of developing mines at Arctic and Bornite, however, are predicated on AIDEA building the Ambler Road and then being repaid for development and maintenance with tolls collected from the use of the industrial access.

Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority

Click on image for larger map of the proposed 211-mile Ambler Access Project.

Federal permits for the Ambler Access project were originally authorized by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service under the Trump administration. After President Biden took office, however, the Department of the Interior determined that the BLM did not appropriately evaluate the effects the proposed Ambler Road might have on subsistence uses and did not adequately consult with Alaska Native tribes prior to authorizing permits for the transportation corridor.

Over the past two years, BLM has been carrying out a reanalysis of the proposed road that included further analysis of subsistence, as well as additional tribal consultation.

"The latest draft includes additional data and analysis informed by robust Tribal consultation and cooperation, on-the-ground perspectives, and public input," BLM Alaska State Director Steve Cohn said upon the October release of a draft supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) for the Ambler Access Project.

Ambler Access Project SAC

While not part of the federal government's reassessment of the Ambler Road permits, the Ambler Access Project SAC underscores a commitment to safeguard the region's fish and wildlife and work with project leadership to implement responsible resource development practices in the Ambler District.

The SAC, which includes members from 12 communities in Northwest and Interior Alaska, recently passed a resolution focused on policies that will protect subsistence resources along the 211-mile Ambler Road corridor.

"This resolution is a testament to the power of collective action and collaboration," said Fred Bifelt, Ambler Access Project SAC co-chair from the village of Huslia. "Together, we are ensuring that the development of this project meets our required stipulations and considers our future generations."

Key aspects of the resolution include:

Development and implementation of management plans and standard operating procedures focused on the protection of fish and wildlife, as well as security to keep the road a private, industrial access-only road.

Regular review and improvement of subsistence policies.

Policies ensuring minimal disturbance to wildlife, especially during migration.

Controlled access and thorough training for all personnel involved.

"Concerns over subsistence resources and trespassing have been voiced by certain communities near the road," said Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority Executive Director Randy Ruaro. "This resolution provides a strong foundation to address these concerns and demonstrates how AIDEA works with local communities and Tribes to protect subsistence."

Many residents of Northwest Alaska hope to find a balance between developing the resources that provide prosperity in a cash economy and protecting the wildlife that has sustained the region for millennia.

"Building the Ambler Road is about embracing our future while honoring our past," said Westlake. "This project brings a promise of jobs and new opportunities for our people. It's a path we're walking with care, ensuring it reflects our values and respects the land that has sustained us for generations."

CORRECTION: This article was updated on March 7 to clarify that NANA Corp. is not involved with the Ambler Access Project Subsistence Advisory Committee.

Author Bio

Shane Lasley, Publisher

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Over his more than 16 years of covering mining and mineral exploration, Shane has become renowned for his ability to report on the sector in a way that is technically sound enough to inform industry insiders while being easy to understand by a wider audience.


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