Plans to get a rock quarry project off the ground in Elim have hit a funding road block. So far, the projected site has been selected 20 miles southwest of the community and the sample test results on the project’s dimensional stone and rip-rap show promise.
Additionally, Morris Nakaruk, the vice president of the local village native corporation, says interest from potential business partners is high and the project has significant value to the community of Elim.
“I think it’ll be good for our village because of the long-term employment opportunities for our youth and the folks in general that live in Elim and the surrounding areas,” he said.
Nakaruk has been involved with the proposed rock quarry since its inception in 2001.
The main hang-up right now is getting enough money to fund the rock quarry. Initial estimates show the permitting process and start up work would cost around $1 million.
According to Nakaruk, Elim’s Native Corporation can’t foot the bill on its own so they’ve been searching for other sources of funding like specific federal grants through the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Department of Interior. But so far, their search hasn’t been very successful.
“It’s not available for our tribes in Alaska,” he said. “It’s available to Lower 48 tribes on mining development through the BIA system. We were trying to go through our senators to have that changed so we could access some of that funding”
Earlier this year, Senator Dan Sullivan assisted the local Native Corporation in meeting with top federal officials who could potentially help the Western Alaska rock quarry project find needed funding. Sullivan says some of the issues Elim is dealing with stem from their decision to opt-out of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA).
“They’re a bit unique from other Alaska Native regional or village corporations. But the one thing that I emphasize a lot is that it’s not just funding, it’s also the permitting process,” he said. “When you have federal agencies particularly in Alaska that take forever to permit different projects, it can be a real source of obstacles to getting economic development off the ground.”
Sullivan says he will continue to work with the Elim Native Corporation and related agencies to help them develop what he refers to as a mineral-rich project with a lot of potential. But for now, Nakaruk says Elim is still waiting on further communication from the Department of Interior and hopes to secure enough funding before they begin the permitting process.
There are possible private investors according to Nakaruk, but interest and inquiries have subsided as the rock quarry’s development has stalled.
If or when the Elim project gets up and going, it has a potential life of 50 years.