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Doyon cuts off Ambler Road access unless AIDEA pays debt

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

Doyon, Limited will end an access agreement with the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority for the Ambler Road, unless AIDEA pays off an old debt from another project.

In a letter sent to AIDEA last week, (attached below) Doyon, Limited says it will not extend an agreement for access to corporation lands past next April. The letter, dated October 17, was signed by Aaron Shutt, Doyon’s president and CEO, and addressed to Randy Ruaro, AIDEA’s Executive Director.

The proposed route for the Ambler Mining District Industrial Access Project runs 211-miles west from the Dalton Highway along the southern flanks of the Brooks Range to the south bank of the Ambler River, in the mineral rich Ambler Mining District.

Without access to about 12 miles of Doyon-owned land at the road’s start near Evansville, the Ambler Road would have to take a much longer route.

In the letter, Shutt writes that Doyon and AIDEA’s relationship has been “fraught” for years, and that AIDEA hasn’t kept up its end of the agreement.

Josie Wilson, AIDEA’s communications director, says that’s not true.

“AIDEA staff and Executive Director Ruauro have requested and held several respectful meetings with Doyon, as well as attended several meetings in person with Doyon shareholders in the communities nearest to Ambler Road. And significant progress has been made with communities and tribes regarding the project and benefits of jobs and economic development.”

Requests for comment from Doyon were returned by email on Tuesday, referring to the letter and to litigation (attached below) between Doyon and AIDEA.

A month ago (Sept. 18) Doyon filed a lawsuit against AIDEA seeking $2 million for labor and services Doyon provided for Brooks Range Petroleum Corporation (BRPC) for a North Slope oil and gas project in 2019 and 2020. In the fall of 2020, BRPC’s holdings were sold to Mustang Holdings, LLC,which is now owned by AIDEA.

AIDEA’s Josie Wilson says they aren’t responsible for someone else’s old debt.

“It is unfortunate and frankly unfair that Doyon is trying to tie issues not related to the Ambler Road to its support for the Ambler Road. There are two separate issues and... The issue of the Mustang project was with Brooks Range. And we ended up having to foreclose on Brooks Range, so it actually isn't even an AIDEA-directly issue,” she said.

Shutt raised the issue in the letter, saying “we view AIDEA’s actions related to Mustang to be in bad faith, and that those actions have significantly damaged the relationship with Doyon. Until our relationship is rehabilitated, we will not consider granting AIDEA access to our lands.”

The AIDEA board of directors is discussing a funding resolution for the Ambler Road project at a meeting today.

Public comment instructions are in the AIDEA board of directors meeting agenda on the AIDEA website.

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.