Alaska Journal of Commerce

Draft EIS nearly ready for Donlin, in the works for Chuitna

Mining companies involved with several important projects aren’t ready to press the button on construction just yet, but they are positioning things to be ready to go when metals and commodity prices tick up, as they surely will.

One large project being watched closely is Donlin Gold in the mid-Kuskokwim River region west of Anchorage, a potential $6.7 billion surface gold mine.

GCI grows 3Q income, still absorbing acquisition costs

General Communications Inc. had another strong quarter in terms of revenue, particularly broadband subscribers and tourist season roaming fees, but the company is still absorbing last year’s major purchase of wireless business in its bottom line.

GCI reported $19.9 million in net income in the third quarter of 2015 compared to $9.9 million in the third quarter of 2014 following the acquisition of wireless customers and infrastructure from Alaska Communications Systems Group Inc. that was finalized in February.

Alaska Communications’ bottom line boosted after sale

Alaska Communications System Group Inc. revenue is down after selling off its wireless business to its fellow Alaska telecom GCI, but net income through nine months has sharply increased.

Net income through three quarters of the year for Alaska Communications was $12.6 million compared to just $2.6 million for the same nine months of 2014. That is despite total operating revenues declining to $54.7 million from $78.4 million in the third quarter of 2014.

In the third quarter ended Sept. 30, net income was $1.2 million compared to $1.9 million in the same period of 2014.

Felony cannabis cases scheduled for trial in early 2016

The State of Alaska is charging four individuals with multiple felonies after each of their cannabis operations fell to Anchorage Police Department undercover work and ensuing raids. Trials won’t be held until January and pretrial hearings will be held in November and December.

Rocky Burns, Larry Stamper, Michael Crites, and Charlene Egbe are each alleged by the state to have been operating illicit marijuana businesses in 2015, and were indicted in September.

Legislature approves TransCanada buyout

The state of Alaska will now own more of the big Alaska LNG Project. It will have to shell out more money for it, too.

Alaska’s Permanent Fund may have to be put up as collateral, also.

Legislators have been meeting in special session in Juneau since Oct. 24 to review Gov. Bill Walker’s proposal for the state to buy out TransCanada’s share of the planned $45 billion to $65 billion pipeline and liquefied gas project.

On Nov. 3 and 4, the state Senate (16-3) and House (39-0) gave their approvals.

Confluence of factors causing disconnect in salmon pricing

Seafood producers were hoping U.S. consumers would have cheaper salmon this year, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. 

The $8.99 per pound of Alaska sockeye the U.S. consumer pays at a minimum in Anchorage isn’t making its way back down the chain to the fishermen, whose overall pay has been slashed in half by a cyclone of every possible negative market pressure and a marketing campaign that keeps prices high and attracts fraudsters.

DOT forced to cut road crew OT as result of budget cuts

Snow has fallen across much of Alaska, and winter tires could be more important than ever this season.

Cuts to the state operating budget have forced the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities to eliminate 35 surface transportation maintenance positions and abolish overtime for winter road crews.

DOT took a $34 million hit — a 12.5 percent reduction — to its fiscal 2016 general fund operating budget, most of which goes to running the Alaska Marine Highway System and maintaining the states roads, runways and other facilities.

Bad for state budget, cheaper fuel helping local economies

Alaska’s economies appear to be unfazed more than a year after oil prices began to fall.

In fact, Anchorage’s unemployment rate of 4.7 percent in September was the lowest in the city has seen for the month in 14 years, according to the Anchorage Economic Development Corp.

Fairbanks was not far behind at 4.9 percent.

Statewide, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate, which accounts for seasonal swings in job availability, was 6.4 percent in September, down 0.4 percent from a year ago, the state Labor Department reports.

IUU bill passes, but more int’l action needed

A bill addressing pirate fishing waits on the president’s desk, but even if signed, the international problem will need more international solutions.

On Oct. 22, the U.S. Senate approved the Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing Enforcement Act of 2015. The bill is the latest in a series of legislative and executive actions broadly aimed to get international pirate fishing under control.

Alaska tops US seafood production; adds jobs

Alaska once again led the nation’s seafood output in 2014, according to a recently released report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

According to the administration, or NOAA, Alaska led all states in sheer volume of U.S. seafood landings with 5.7 billion pounds valued at $1.7 billion. The next closest state was Louisiana shrimp-based fisheries at 870.5 million pounds.

State board sets new method for workers’ comp payments

The state has adopted a new method for paying physicians and other health providers for services provided under Workers’ Compensation to injured workers.

New regulations were adopted Oct. 29 by the Alaska Workers’ Compensation Board, which met in Anchorage. The change is aimed at slowing an annual rise in medical payments under workers’ compensation claims that result partly because of the payment formula.

Interior Dept. cancels Arctic lease sales, refuses lease extensions

The U.S. Department of the Interior announced Friday it is canceling scheduled Arctic Ocean lease sales in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas previously set for 2016 and 2017, and that it is refusing requests from Shell and Statoil for lease suspensions.

Shell announced Sept. 27 it was indefinitely suspending its Arctic Ocean exploration after drilling one well in its Chukchi lease this summer, a fact cited by Secretary Sally Jewell in her announcement of the sale cancelation and lease suspension denials.

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