Doyon Ltd. has sent a letter threatening the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, a state-owned development agency, that the access to the Ambler Mining District across the Alaska Native corporation’s land is going to be revoked — unless certain other conditions concerning unrelated projects are met.
Aaron Schutt, Doyon’s CEO, wrote to AIDEA Executive Director Randy Ruaro, laying down certain terms having to do with an agreement at the Mustang Pad on the North Slope, which Schutt says AIDEA failed to honor.
Schutt demanded AIDEA drop its appeal of Doyon’s free land use permit to use the Mustang Pad free of charge, or else Doyon would pull support from the Ambler Road.
“To be clear, we view AIDEA’s actions related to Mustang Pad 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 access to our lands,” Schutt wrote.
Doyon owns the land needed for a right-of-way road to the state-owned Ambler Mining District. The land access agreement, signed in 2021, expires in April of 2024, and Schutt said it will not be allowing AIDEA’s team, which is working in the field to develop and prove the mining district, further access.
“Doyon’s relationship with AIDEA and the Ambler Access Project has been fraught for many years,” Schutt said in his letter, in which he misspelled the name of Ruaro, to whom the letter was specifically addressed.
But the threat against a state agency is itself fraught, and appears litigious in nature.
Doyon is demanding access free of charge to the Mustang pad for Doyon’s man camps, something worth millions of dollars to AIDEA and Mustang Holdings LLC, if it remained the owner of the pad and project; the project is in the process of being sold.
No other working interest owner had agreed to the free-use agreement either, and sources say that the Department of Natural Resources didn’t approve of the arrangement.
DNR did grant Doyon a use agreement for the Mustang Pad, but the terms of that permit required Doyon to reach an “equitable agreement” with the owner of the pad.
Since Doyon paid nothing for the construction of the pad, AIDEA decided that some kind of fair-market rent for using the pad was proper.
Then there is the pesky federal law that set forth absolute access conditions for the Ambler Mining District. The Statehood Act of 1959 promised Alaska it “shall” have access to minerals on state lands, and the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980 specifically defined the route of access to the Ambler Mining District, and reiterated the Statehood Act’s determination that there must be access granted.
In 1980, section 201(4)(b) of ANILCA says, “Congress finds that there is a need for access for surface transportation purposes … from the Ambler mining district to the Alaska Pipeline Haul Road and the Secretary shall permit such access …”
Congress went further and declared that federal law prevented an agency such as Bureau of Land Management, in permitting road access to the Ambler mining district from imposing conditions so strict, severe, or costly that the road would no longer be “adequate and feasible” for economic purposes, i.e., mining.
And Congress even confirmed that BLM must give immediate “temporary” access to the “State” (of which AIDEA is an agency) “to or across” federal land for purposes of “survey, geophysical, exploratory, or other temporary uses whether “permanent harm” to the land would not result.
But it appears Doyon is having second thoughts about granting access and that it may end up in court with the state if it follows through on its threat and blocks the right of way.
The Doyon letter follows: