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Mineral and Coal Resources and the Status of Mining Activities in Western Arctic Alaska

This report is a review of available information regarding the mineral resources of Western Arctic Alaska. For purposes of this report, Western Arctic Alaska is defined as the area north of the Arctic Circle and west of 155 degrees west longitude.

This report is a review of available information regarding the mineral resources of Western Arctic Alaska. For purposes of this report, Western Arctic Alaska is defined as the area north of the Arctic Circle and west of 155 degrees west longitude. It includes portions of the watersheds of the Kobuk, Noatak, Utokok and upper Colville Rivers, and it encompasses a number of significant national parks and wildlife refuges, as well as the western portion of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPRA). The region contains rich deposits of zinc, lead, copper and gold. It also contains extensive deposits of coal. Only one major mine is currently operating in the region, Red Dog, but other major mining projects are under consideration. This report looks at the viability of these projects, existing and proposed transportation infrastructure, mining companies involved in the projects, and potential environmental and social impacts of mining in the region.

There is a large body of evidence which indicates that mining activities on the scale needed to develop the ore bodies in the Northwest Arctic could have significant, long-term impacts to water quality, air quality, aquatic and terrestrial plants, and wildlife. These impacts may be of such a scale that it will not be possible to mitigate them to the degree needed to maintain ecosystem integrity. This would suggest that there may be some areas of the region where mining should not occur, including areas outside the boundaries of existing designated conservation system units.

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