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A Review of Industrial Hard Rock Mining in Alaska

The purpose of this report is to inform public debate about current and proposed hard rock lode mines in Alaska. Its intent is to help answer the question of what benefits—and liabilities--Alaskans will realize in considering these developments.

It bears repeating that the late Governor Hammond suggested a simple list of criteria by which Alaskans should evaluate proposed resource development efforts in our state to ensure healthy and sustainable economic growth:

  • Is it environmentally sound?
  • Do most Alaskans want it?
  • Can it pay its own way?
  • Does it meet our constitution's mandate to manage resources for the maximum benefit of all Alaskans?

The Governor strongly recommended that a resource development project be encouraged only if it meets these criteria.

All of the individual mine summaries in this report, as well the review of mining impacts statewide, have provided evidence which indicates that the damages to Alaska’s natural resources from mining activities are potentially enormous costs the public may be asked to bear. However, these costs are difficult to predict. There is no easy answer for how Alaskans should weigh them against the potential benefits of jobs and revenue when evaluating proposed industrial mine developments in Alaska. Alaskans--and Alaska policy-makers--would benefit if each of the industrial-scale hard rock mine developments currently under consideration within the state received the kind of careful scrutiny Governor Hammond called for, with particular attention given to the state’s tax and royalty structures for the mining industry as well as how reclamation bonding requirements are calculated.

As owners of the public resources that mining companies want to exploit, we have the authority and responsibility to determine whether large lode mine developments in Alaska provide the "maximum benefit to all Alaskans" as called for in Alaska’s constitution. In exercising this authority, we need to consider not just short-term benefits for our generation of Alaskans, but the long-term liabilities we may be asking our children to bear.

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