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Feds give go-ahead for Ambler Road access to mining district

 In this Aug. 1, 2014 photo provided by the National Park Service are male caribou antlers in the Oolah Valley, likely the result of a grizzly kill as he migrated south for the winter at the Arctic National Park and Preserve in Alaska. The nation's northernmost national park says its new management plan will have to consider the effects of a new industrial road to the mining district of Ambler, the first road that would be constructed within its Maryland-sized boundaries. (AP Photo/National Park Service, Cadence Cook)
In this Aug. 1, 2014 photo provided by the National Park Service are male caribou antlers in the Oolah Valley, likely the result of a grizzly kill as he migrated south for the winter at the Arctic National Park and Preserve in Alaska. The nation's northernmost national park says its new management plan will have to consider the effects of a new industrial road to the mining district of Ambler, the first road that would be constructed within its Maryland-sized boundaries. (AP Photo/National Park Service, Cadence Cook) (KTUU)
Published: Jul. 26, 2020 at 6:09 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Thursday federal agencies issued a record of decision approving plans for a 211 mile private industrial road from the Dalton Highway along the southern Brooks Range to the Ambler Mining District.

The federal authorization for the Ambler Mining District Industrial Access Project, commonly referred to simply as Ambler Road, has been five years in the making.

The controversy over the road stems from the potential impacts construction and operation of the road in a currently roadless area will have on subsistence resources - primarily the Western Arctic Caribou Herd.

The road also drew controversy from environmentalist because the route would cross through Gates of the Arctic National Park and Park and Preserve, over the Kobuk Wild and Scenic River, and cross 2,932 streams.

The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, which proposed the project, welcomed the decision. If completed, the road would open up a 75-mile stretch of state and private lands that holds the potential for multiple mines, AIDEA states.

The road would be built with state money matching funds from the private sector. Then during operation, the state would recover its costs of building the road by charging users a fee, AIDEA states.

“Getting a large, remote project such as Ambler through the Environmental Impact Statement process is a herculean task,” AIDEA Chief Infrastructure Development Officer Mark Davis said in a prepared statement. “It couldn’t have been done without the wisdom of Alaska’s 1980s Congressional delegation, support of past and present delegations, legislators and administrations, and thoughtful dialogue with Alaskans who assist us in critically analyzing every decision.”

The Ambler Mining District holds deposits of several different valuable minerals, Alaska Miners Association president Deantha Skibinski said.

“There are a number of what is generally called world class deposits in the area,” Skibinski said. “It is known that there are significant reserves of copper and cobalt, and a number of other metals that are really critical, that in fact they’re called critical minerals. They’re classified that way by the United States Geological Survey as minerals that we don’t generally have an adequate domestic supply of that we have to import. So to know that there are such prolific amounts of these minerals in this district makes it a really significant area.”

In a press release, AIDEA says that it will now begin negotiations in earnest with landowners along the route. Those include Alaska Native regional corporations NANA and Doyon.

AIDEA says that more studies will be done to develop a more accurate assessment of the cost. AIDEA and its investing partners will then evaluate the feasibility before moving forward and beginning financing, the authority states.

Copyright 2020 KTUU. All rights reserved.

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