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Antipathy toward Alaska mining is myopic

North of 60 Mining News – May 31, 2024

The Bureau of Land Management has struck again, this time in the form of a land management plan for the Central Yukon Resource Management Area or the "CYRMP" (pronounced crimp).

The CYRMP and the associated Final Environmental Impact Statement, dated April 2024, will have significant adverse effects on the future of mining in Alaska because of the intent to adopt hybrid Alternative E that will effectively foreclose vast acreage in the state to mineral exploration and development.

Bureau of Land Management

Needless to say, if implemented as proposed, Alternative E is contrary to the intent and language of the Alaska Statehood Act, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA), the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA).

That, of course, is not persuasive to the BLM.

Likewise, it is contrary to reason because, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the BLM seems to be deaf, dumb, and blind to the potential of Alaska to produce a vast array of critical minerals in support of current and future national needs.

The BLM's bias is two-fold: first, it ignores the international implications of recovering minerals of virtually all types off-shore, whether we are talking about rare earths from China or cobalt from Congo; and second, it ignores the obvious fact that land management is a three-dimensional obligation that includes management of the minerals in the ground, not just surface assets.

The BLM takes the position that blocking mineral development, rather than facilitating it, is somehow a part of their mandate.

Here are nine good reasons why the recommended alternative, Alternative E, should not be adopted:

1. The recommended alternative fails to revoke outdated ANCSA 17(d)(1) withdrawals.

2. The recommended alternative fails to revoke the outdated PLO 5150 (relating to the pipeline corridor) and to allow for state top-filings to facilitate the overdue priority transfer to state management.

3. The recommended alternative fails to offer a meaningful assessment of the mineral potential, socioeconomic impact, and development likelihood in the planning area.

4. The recommended alternative retains unlawfully large areas of critical environmental concern designations and designates new ones without meaningful consideration of the impacts on economic development and access.

5. The recommended alternative creates ROW Exclusion Areas that preemptively and unjustifiably curtail public access to certain areas within the planning area.

6. The recommended alternative administratively precludes multiple use throughout the planning area.

7. The recommended alternative violates the critical ANILCA "no more" clauses intended to preserve a balance of available land uses in the public interest.

8. The recommended alternative uses the "BEACONS" (Boreal Ecosystems Analysis for Conservation Networks) approach and other subjective, poorly defined categories as a management priority without acknowledging that fish, wildlife, and plants will adapt to a realistic development environment.

9. The recommended alternative includes repetitive, vague, and overly specific procedures that cumulatively make it difficult for small mining operations to occur on CRYMP lands.

Each of these issues, of course, has voluminous elaboration, which has been expounded on to the BLM over the past ten years, beginning with the initial CRYMP scoping exercise in 2014.

What is devastating to the State and to the nation is that Alaska never ceases to be the whipping boy for all manner of land use restrictions and that enough is never quite enough in some quarters.

We thought and hoped that ANILCA would be the end, not the beginning, of the Scrooge McDuck syndrome, whereby America's radlibs would rather sit on their assets than see them put to practical, beneficial use.

Without putting too fine a point on it, Alaska could be at the forefront of incredible solutions to complex problems.

We have uranium targets which, if properly developed, could contribute to solving the domestic energy crisis where solar, wind and a pant-load of other exotics are doomed to fail.

We have platinum group metals, possibly including ruthenium, which, if current research bears fruit, could be the key to converting polypropylene into jet fuel.

We have rare earths minerals, precious metals, as well as copper, lead and zinc in prodigious quantities.

We have untold nickel resources from one end of the state to the other.

Yet, we insist on importing these same metals from countries that disgorge them without regard to the environment, the human toll, or our domestic security.

To be sure, the BLM is not the unique miscreant at the table when it comes to dumping on Alaska, but they stand hand-in-hand with other agencies and private entities that choose not to look beyond the tips of their nose when it comes to the Alaska economy.

Alaska has provided the fuel that kept America moving for five decades. Alaska has provided gold and silver to the nation for 125 years and still has virtually unlimited reserves to be tapped.

Alaska has endowed and continues to endow the world with the zinc that galvanizes our steel buckets, not to mention protecting our health. (Put that on your sunburn, mister.)

It is sad and disappointing to see the BLM advance Alternative E of the CRYMP, not just because of the harm it will do but also because of the ignorance it belies.

 

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