GUEST COMMENTARY: Major investor leaving should concern Alaskans


Most Alaskans strive to grow and prosper and welcome those willing and able to invest their expertise and resources towards development of our state resources. Over the years, Alaska has developed permitting requirements that must be met before any project is allowed to proceed.

Those decisions are based upon the data and science submitted to the state that allows it to then judge whether the project meets the pre-determined standards. This protects the state and provides predictability and stability for the investors.

If this permitting process is not allowed to occur, politics replaces science and an unpredictable investment environment results. Alaska will then deservedly gain a reputation in the international marketplace as a risky long-term investment.

On Sept. 16, Anglo American, the major international financial investor, announced it was withdrawing from Pebble leaving behind a huge investment and a consensus world-class mining prospect. This should raise major concerns for Alaskans.

In Alaska, in addition to the thousands of support service jobs, Pebble is anticipated to directly create 3,000 new Alaskan operational jobs each paying in excess of $100,000 annually.

This is high scale family-wage employment, which is exactly what is needed in Alaska. Preliminary estimates are that the Pebble deposits may very well sustain decades of mining operations and may continue for the next 100 years.

To be perfectly clear, Alaska has neither endorsed nor opposed the Pebble project, nor should we until we have all of the facts, but the facts will only surface through data gathered through the permitting process. We have successfully attracted several large-scale resource projects in the past that have added greatly to the private sector of Alaska’s economy. Every one of these projects was allowed to, and required to, submit their projects through our comprehensive permitting process. Why should the Pebble prospect not proceed through the same scientific process?

What will Alaskans lose if that permitting process is not pursued? (1) Alaska will lose extremely valuable scientific data that would have been required during permitting and which would be of great importance to comparable future projects; (2) large scale investors will definitely take notice and will factor this uncertainty into their initial assessment on whether Alaska provides a stable attractive investment atmosphere that bases its long-term decisions on facts rather than media advertising blitzes, personalities or politics; and (3) without any scientific or economic analysis, the State will not even be in consideration for the jobs and development that this major Pebble project may have brought to us.

One of the main reasons stated by Anglo American for withdrawing from Alaska is for them “to reduce the capital required to sustain such project during the pre-approval phases of development.” Yet, the company feels compelled to walk away from over $541 million that they have already invested into this Pebble project! I am afraid Alaska has sent the wrong message and Anglo American’s response has been just as clear.

We either honor and trust our permitting system or rely upon the whim of the day. If I am asked to make an important policy decision such as Pebble, I would base that decision on science and facts rather than rely upon innuendo, mass media advertising or political posturing.

What is surprising is why are not the major labor and business organizations of Alaska speaking up? If Alaskans truly want to diversify our economy and quit relying solely upon the petroleum industry and government for creation of jobs, we need to create and maintain a healthy climate for attracting capital investments. A stable, transparent, coherent permitting process is the cornerstone of such a climate.

No one, including myself, wants to jeopardize our world-class fishery, but in order to truly understand the impact on this treasured fishery, science is essential to guide us. If we believe there are ways to improve the permitting process, then we should implement such improvements. However, Alaskans should not be afraid, and should insist that our permitting process not be short-circuited. Our economic future, and that of Alaska, will depend upon it.

Sen. Mike Dunleavy represents the Mat-Su Valley.

Reader Comments:
Oct 3, 2013 08:23 pm
 Posted by  economy

there is other ways to diversify Alaska that is just mining and accepting, expanding the mine will hurt the rural life of the region of Bristol bay. the rural villages rely on the river for food and water. indirectly other animals like caribou, deer, bears, bird that also rely on the water will be affected. if the rivers get poisoned by the mine waste where will the rural villages get water and a lot of people know that it is expensive to transport water. The food is also expensive in the rural area. the mine will only employ a small portion of the population of the region so in the long run its will be a drag to the rural economy.

Oct 14, 2013 04:55 pm
 Posted by  Ember

The whole point of permitting is to look hard at the science involved in a project in order to avoid the kind of environmental disasters that the opponents of Pebble have been predicting since the mine was first proposed. Pebble is not going to pollute the waters, nor are they going to kill all the salmon. The high costs of bringing in supplies to the rural communities are, in part, due to the fact that everything must be flown in rather than trucked. Pebble not only means a source of income to many in the communities surrounding the mine, but it also means roads and support industry. Losing Anglo American is a severe blow to the future of development in this state. It’s a shame that rhetoric has caused an investor to decide Alaska is not worth the hassle involved in bringing a project to fruition, and it doesn’t bode well for the future of development in the state.

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