Alaska Miners Dispute Claim That ‘Much’ Of Alaska’s Federal Lands Are Open To Mining

Alaska mining advocates are taking issue with something Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said last week, while defending federal resource management in Alaska.

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Here’s what Jewell said: “We are in no way preventing development of Alaska’s resources on public lands. We’re facilitating development in a number of areas. Much of the mining in Alaska is on public lands.”

The Alaska Miners Association has written a letter to Jewell disputing that “much” of Alaska’s mining is on federal lands. Alaska has six big mines. Two, Kensington and Greens Creek in Southeast, are on federal land. The others are on state and Native land. Deantha Crockett, executive director of the mining group, says Alaska has more than 400 placer mines, but only about 80 are on federal land.

“I think our concern is when you say “much” you’re talking about 18 percent of placer mines, and two out of six large-scale mines,” Crockett said. “I guess I don’t consider that to be ‘much.'”

Crockett says the lack of mining activity on federal land didn’t happen by accident. More than 60 percent of the state is federal land, but Crockett says too much is closed to mining.

“And the then the acreage that is administered by the federal government that isn’t closed to mineral entry, frankly, there are tremendous permitting delays and a whole bunch of bureaucracy that’s affecting these operation from moving forward,” Crockett said.

Crockett says the BLM is hampered by staff turn-over and budget constraints. She says the Alaska Miners Association is offering to help the Interior Department simplify the permitting process to speed it along.

An Interior Department official, counting both pending and active mining plans and notices, says there are 176 mining sites on federal land in Alaska.