Gold Rush in Alaska May Go in Vain

Kimberly Watson, Editor in Chief
October 21, 2011 /

An impending decision by the Alaska State Supreme Court will definitely dictate whether the gold rush in Alaska will be of use or not as voters have passed measures aimed at stopping mines in the state.

One of the proposed mining site is the Pebble Mine, which is almost the biggest sockeye salmon spawning location.

Voters passed last week the Save Our Salmon initiative, a reason to celebrate for environmentalists and conservation groups.

Anders Gustafson, the executive director of the Renewable Resources Coalition that brought together commercial, sport and subsistence fishers to oppose the development of the giant gold and copper mining, considered the vote to be a wake-up call for the mining industry albeit the close margin with the mining proponents.

What’s more, the move is supported by almost all of the residents in the state, nearly entirely dampening the hopes of Anglo-American and Northern Dynasty officials for a business project in the areas.

More than 50 percent of Alaska folks turned down mining prospects, with the ballot measure passing by just 34 votes.

Mike Heatwole, a spokesman for the Pebble partnership, considered the narrow margin as a good sign. Heatwole also represents the mining companies.

One of the barricades hampering the mining development in Alaska is the all too high environmental standards that the state and federal government are requiring mining companies to meet.

Although the prospect of allowing mines in the state is an invitation to economic boom, residents are thinking twice over environmental factors that hold sway on their decision.

Heatwole, on the other hand, is hoping that the courts will trash the initiative.

Trefon Angasan, who represents Alaska natives living near the proposed mine, vehemently opposes the initiative as it will drive away job opportunities for local residents there especially in times when fishing jobs, which used to be their living, are declining.

The same environmentalists and conservative groups have previously dispelled oil and gas prospects in Alaska, and now they are being criticized for doing the same to mining, seemingly pushing away the chances at survival.

Mining companies are challenging the legality of the initiative. According to Alaska’s attorney general, the initiative would be unenforceable. Accordingly, the Constitution gives the legislature, not boroughs, authority to develop state resources.


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