Fairbanks, AK - The State of Alaska and University of Alaska Fairbanks sponsored the second annual Alaska Strategic and Critical Minerals Summit in Fairbanks last Friday. Geologists, miners, state legislators and key leaders from the both state and federal agencies and international companies gathered to find out more about the potential to explore and develop Alaska’s minerals and rare-earth elements. Permitting and energy were key issues this year.
Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Luke Hopkins reminded those who attended this year’s Critical and Strategic Mineral Summit that interior Alaska has a rich mining history. But he said there is a long way to go before mining development can take off once again in the region. “I think one of the pieces that I certainly hope to see some actions this year and next year as we see our congressional delegation move forward with one stop permitting if that really comes to pass, we don’t have to wait 12 to 14 years to get permits," says Hopkins.
US Senator Lisa Murkowski is a ranking member of the Senate committee on Energy and Natural Resources. She delivered an address via DVD. She told the crowd that the permitting process for natural resource development across the country needs to be reworked. “At the moment, the US is tied with Papua New Guinea for dead last in the world in the time that it takes to make a yes or no decision on permit applications,” she says.
Aside from permitting woes, newly named State Senate Majority Leader John Coghill addressed what he says is another major issue that hinders the industry in Alaska. “One of the overarching issues, you’re gonna hear about over and over in this legislature is how to get energy to those areas," Coghill told the crowd. "You’re sitting in a town right now that feels the pinch of high energy costs that just has to be cracked, says Coghill.
Representatives from Alaska’s largest Native Corporations were joined by international industry leaders from Germany and Japan. State Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan told the crowd the goal of the meeting was to stimulate private sector investment in Alaska’ mineral resources.