Murkowski says he'll boost mining

Posted: Monday, August 26, 2002

ANCHORAGE - Republican candidate for governor Frank Murkowski says the state should help build roads to open remote mining areas, including one near Juneau.

Murkowski listed potential roads to the Pogo mine near Delta Junction, the Donlon Creek mine in southwest Alaska, the Pebble Copper deposit near Iliamna and the Taku and Stikine road projects in Southeast. A road up the Taku River has been suggested to aid reopening the Tulsequah Chief mine across the border in British Columbia.

"You're what opened this country," Murkowski told the Alaska Miner's Association on Friday. "I'll pursue every avenue possible to pursue mining."

Murkowski's pitch for the road projects, which have a combined price tag of hundreds of millions of dollars, was part of a string of policies he said he would implement to aid mining if elected governor. Among his other proposals:

• Delayed implementation of new environmental regulations designed to protect Alaska's coastline.

• Changes in state law to prevent people who challenge state decisions on mining development from receiving legal fees.

• More state rights of way on federal land to access resources.

Other Murkowski proposals, such as a call for faster permitting and state takeover of water discharge permitting from the federal government, are similar to those Democrat Fran Ulmer outlined July 31 in a speech on economic development.

Murkowski parted ways with Ulmer on state-funded roads. In the case of Pogo and Donlon Creek gold mines, now under development, Murkowski said state dollars could spur the projects. The other roads, he said, could help open isolated regions to future development.

Murkowski was not specific about how the state could get involved in the projects.

"We need to get in there and start making things happen," he said.

Murkowski's call for spending on roads, as well as his goal to take over water discharge permitting, may mean more state spending. The state is projected to face a $1 billion fiscal gap in the coming years. And Murkowski has pledged to cut the budget and not to pass new taxes.

"Who is going to pay for it? Frank Murkowski is saying he's going to cut the budget and saying no taxes. Who pays?" Ulmer asked Friday.

She said she would consider state aid to marginal projects if analysis showed a benefit to Alaska. "But the state is not going to be out there underwriting every project."



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