Alaska Digest

Posted: Monday, January 08, 2007

Native corporation working on coal deal

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KODIAK - A Kodiak Native corporation has an agreement with a Canadian mining company to purchase leases within the Matanuska coal fields on the mainland. The area has a coal mining history more than 100 years long, but produces no coal at this time.

For a minimum commitment of $2 million, Afognak Native Corp. could become 80-percent owner of a 22,647-acre coal lease known as the Chickaloon Lease Area currently held by Vancouver, British Columbia-based Full Metal Minerals.

The deal is in its early stages, and if it goes through, production would be several years away. It was announced earlier this year by Full Metal Minerals, a publicly traded company.

Afognak is an Alaska Native corporation whose shareholders originated from Afognak Island in the Kodiak Archipelago.

Afognak spokeswoman Sarah Lukin said in a statement via e-mail that Afognak has not yet decided to mine Matanuska coal.

"Afognak Native Corporation is currently in the due diligence phase of this project and has not made the decision to proceed," Lukin said, calling the deal "an exploration project" still several years in the making.

According to Full Metal's announcement, Afognak would commit $2 million to exploration, $600,000 during the first year of the deal. Afognak would also pay Full Metal $100,000 in cash.

In return Afognak would become majority owner, holding 80 percent interest in the property.

Jeff King wins Knik 200 Sled Dog Race

WILLOW - Four-time Iditarod champion Jeff King successfully defended his title Sunday in the Knik 200 Joe Redington Sr. Memorial Sled Dog Race.

King, also the winner of the 2006 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, crossed the finish line of the 200-mile race at 10:57 a.m. Sunday.

Jon Little finished just three minutes behind King, followed by Sebastian Schenulle, Melanie Gould and Ray Redington Jr., one of two of Joe Redington Sr.'s grandsons to run this year's race. Ryan Redington finished ninth.

The race, which is a qualifier for the 1,100-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race held in March, allows mushers the opportunity to run part of the Iditarod Trail and see how their dogs perform. The trail goes from Knik Lake to the Skentna Roadhouse and back to Knik Lake.

Thirty-six teams began the race Saturday. Four had scratched by Sunday afternoon.

Bruce Braden, a race organizer, said the race, which has no major sponsors, relies on local contributions and the work of over two dozen volunteers to run the race, named for Joe Redington Sr., considered the father of the Iditarod.

University rejects contractor claim

FAIRBANKS - The University of Alaska has denied a $17.4 million claim filed by the contractor for the expansion of the UA Museum of the North.

In a letter dated Dec. 29, Kathleen Schedler, UA Fairbanks associate vice chancellor of facilities and safety, denied the claim by Alaska Mechanical Inc. to cover cost overruns associated with the $42 million museum expansion.

Schedler said AMI failed to show that the university was responsible for the project's delays or additional costs and therefore was not liable for anything beyond the $25.9 million payment in the contract.

Additionally, the claim was filed after a deadline imposed by state law, Schedler said. State law specifies that contractor claims due to changes in a project's scope must be filed by 90 days after the issue is discovered. Some of the issues in AMI's claim date back to March 2004.

AMI filed in June, claiming that AMI and several subcontractors were owed money due to "disruptions, hindrances, interferences, delays, and other breaches of UA's contractual obligation to AMI."

The company claimed that the university was responsible for $2.9 million of extra work due to hundreds of changes to the building's designs. Those changes, AMI said, slowed the project, forced AMI's employees and subcontractors to work overtime and forced construction to take place in the winter, resulting in additional costs.

Schedler rejected claims of a flawed design by the architect. She said that over the life of the 40-month project, there were only 148 architect-initiated clarifications to the designs, fewer than one per week.

Alaska's Episcopal bishop moves on

FAIRBANKS - The Episcopal bishop for Alaska is leaving to oversee aboriginal church members in Canada.

The Rt. Rev. Mark MacDonald has been named the Anglican Church of Canada's first national indigenous bishop. The appointment was announced Thursday in Toronto by Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.

MacDonald, 52, starts his new job March 1 in Toronto.

"I'm very excited at this opportunity to see the gospel come to life in a new way in communities and am very, very honored for being asked," he said.

At a national gathering in August, 2005, in Pinawa, Manitoba, indigenous Anglicans requested a national indigenous bishop. The new position is described as a rarity in Anglican tradition - a bishop who is pastor to a group of people no matter where they live rather than a specific area.

MacDonald has sent out a letter to Alaska Episcopal churches that was read Sunday.

"My task over the next few years is to midwife the creation of a Native jurisdiction within the Canadian Church," he wrote.

"It is a different way of organizing what is already there," he said. "It takes more seriously aboriginal culture, authority and identity and tries to give expression to that."

In Canada, MacDonald said, there are 220 Native Anglican congregations.

MacDonald said he plans to start the new ministry by listening and talking to people.

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