On April 6, the state legislature held a hearing on the feasibility of building a private industrial road from the Dalton highway to copper deposits in the Ambler Mining district. This road would stretch over 200 miles along the southern Brooks Range in a remote area including Gates of the Arctic National Preserve and the Kobuk Wild River.
The state has already spent $22 million on planning and is considering financing construction of Ambler Road in the hopes of recouping costs from the mining company. But if this megaproject fails, there’s no guarantee the state will be reimbursed. The failed Rock Creek Mine near Nome left the state holding the check and was owned by a forerunner to the company now pushing development of the Ambler mine.
Gates of the Arctic, and Alaska generally, attracts visitors from around the world because of the unique opportunity for wilderness adventures found nowhere else. In Gates of the Arctic alone, an estimated 10,000 visitors contributed $15.8 million to Alaska’s economy in 2017. Additionally, more than a dozen local villages and subsistence councils have passed resolutions in opposition over concerns the road and mine will negatively impact their traditional way of life.
Gov. Bill Walker and the legislature should cancel the Ambler Road project. It is a risky venture the state simply cannot afford. The possibility of the state losing a great deal of money, combined with likely harmful impacts to caribou, salmon and rural lifestyles, is not worth the risk.
Program Manager of National Parks Conservation Association in Girdwood