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Comments on new Ambler Road EIS due in December

Map of proposed Ambler Road route.
Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority
Map of proposed Ambler Road route.

The public comment period for the Ambler Road Draft Supplemental EIS opened on Friday, October 20. The public now has 60 days to comment on the 211-mile mining road.

The road is called the Ambler Mining District Industrial Access Project. Proposed by the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA) in 2013, the road would come off the Dalton Highway and skirt the southern flanks of the Brooks Range to the south bank of the Ambler River.

The proposed road is for industrial access to the Ambler Mining District – it would not be open to the public, at least not at first.

The project has had a lot of scrutiny through the National Environmental Policy Act process, including a Final Environmental Impact Statement or EIS, pushed through during the final days of the Trump Administration.

That was followed by several lawsuits challenging the permitting process. A judge (United States District Court Judge Sharon Gleason) found that EIS lacked adequate tribal consultation and did not analyze subsistence impacts under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act - or ANILCA.

The Department of the Interior suspended the permits in Feb. 2022, effectively starting the process over.

Now the document released last week is called a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement.

BLM says the SEIS found potential subsistence impacts to 66 communities, more than twice as many (27) as were identified in the previous assessment.

Western Arctic Herd
Geoff Carroll
Alaska Department of Fish and Game
Western Arctic Herd

It also reevaluated potential impacts on caribou and fish and incorporated Indigenous knowledge through consultation, comment letters, and testimony and Regional Advisory Council meetings.

Alaska’s federal delegation released a statement last week encouraging development of the Ambler Road. Senator Lisa Murkowski wrote:

“This road is guaranteed under federal law and will facilitate access to crucial supplies of copper, cobalt, gallium, germanium, and other minerals that our nation currently imports from abroad. This is particularly important as China cuts off exports of gallium and germanium, cobalt is produced through modern-day slavery in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and some of our best analysts are forecasting shortages of copper within a decade,” she wrote.

A link to the draft SEIS is available on BLM's website. The comment period ends on December 19, 2023. BLM promises several public meetings and ANILCA 810 Hearings on Subsistence Use in communities potentially affected by the project, but those haven’t been scheduled yet.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game

Robyne began her career in public media news at KUAC, coiling cables in the TV studio and loading reel-to-reel tape machines for the radio station.