Mining in context

Posted: Thursday, February 21, 2002

I am writing in response to the editorial published on Feb. 17 about my report, "The Role of Metal Mining in the Alaska Economy." Running a critical editorial before first running an objective story on the report itself does not exactly fit the model of a free press seeking to keep the public informed on important public policy issues.

The main purpose of this report was to compare the commonly held assumptions about the economic contributions that the mining industry brings to Alaska against factual reality. Important events 100 years ago in Alaska's economic history combined with hype by the mining industry allow that industry to portray itself as much bigger than the actual economic benefits the mining industry brings to local communities. It is important as Alaska citizens participate in developing good natural resource policy to be able to put self-serving claims of economic importance in an appropriate context so that they can be critically evaluated. That is what the report sought to do.

That said, in no way do I want to downplay the importance of mining jobs to individual families in Alaska. Instead, I hope that this economic report will serve as a wake-up call for the state of Alaska to provide long-term economic security for the public by asking mining companies to put less money into public relations and more into royalty payments on the ore they ship out of state and into environmental protection and reclamation measures that protect their host state. That solution is pro-Alaska, allowing the citizens of the state to assure that they get a fair share of the mineral value that is removed from the state while protecting Alaska's spectacular natural landscapes for future generations.

Dr. Thomas Power

Professor and Chairman

Economics Department

University of Montana

Publishers Note: Professor Power once again is mistaken. The Juneau Empire ran the Associated Press story about Professor Power's report on Feb. 14. The editorial ran on Feb. 17. The challenges made in the editorial regarding the veracity of the information contained in Power's report stand as stated.

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