VIDEO REMARKS: Prince of Wales Island-Wide Mining

Hello from Washington, DC.  I apologize I couldn’t join you in person, but rest assured, I’d much rather be on beautiful Prince of Wales Island, discussing the future of mining in Southeast Alaska. 

I want to extend a warm welcome to all of you, and thank you for your interest in mining issues.  Certainly, as you examine the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead, you’ll have a lot to talk about over the next couple of days. 

Alaska has a world-class mineral base, and Southeast is no exception.  We are seeing great success at Kensington and Greens Creek.  We have many more deposits just waiting to be developed.  And that’s why I am working hard to secure road access for the Niblack and Bokan Mountain projects, which could together create 400 new jobs for the local economy. 

In the last Congress, I introduced legislation to grant access to both mines through the Inventoried Roadless Area.  Unfortunately, that bill proved unacceptable to the Forest Service and some of my colleagues across the aisle, so it did not pass.

This year, I’m taking a different approach.

First, I’ve reintroduced legislation to simply grant Alaska a waiver from roadless restrictions, which would allow both mines to apply for road access.

Second, I’ve urged the Forest Service, as part of a pending amendment to the Tongass Land Management Plan, to administratively permit roads for mining and energy through roadless areas.

My hope is one of those efforts will bear fruit as we await further progress on the State’s lawsuit, which is awaiting review by the full Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California.

I’ve also reintroduced my broad “critical minerals” bill, the American Mineral Security Act.  It encompasses many policies we need to reduce our alarming dependence on foreign suppliers. If we can pilot it to the finish line, we will finally bring our mineral policies into the 21st century.  That would be great news for Niblack and Bokan, for our mineral security, and for our manufacturers.  

I’m also keeping my eyes on a number of issues that could negatively impact mining on the island.  The proposed “waters of the U.S.” rule from EPA and the Army Corps could significantly limit access and drive up the cost of wetland mitigation.  I’m working with Senators from both parties who are unhappy with the rule, and it looks like our best option is to simply stop it from taking effect. 

Finally, the Fish and Wildlife Service is deciding whether to list wolves on the island as threatened or endangered.  An ESA listing could greatly impact future mining operations, but it truly does not appear to be warranted.  I’ve submitted formal comments arguing against it, and will remain engaged on this issue. 

It’s a busy time for mining in Southeast.  There’s a lot for us to be working on – and there is a clear need for us to work together. 

Thanks again for inviting me to participate in this symposium. My local staff member, Penny Pedersen is there participating in the symposium. I urge you to connect with her on ideas, insights, and concerns. I wish you well and look forward to hearing the outcomes.