By SHANE LASLEY / NORTH OF 60 MINING NEWS
The $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act brightens an otherwise gloomy outlook when it comes to federal policies that impact Alaska and its mining sector.
“I believe this is truly historic for our state,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said during a Nov. 17 address at the Alaska Resources Conference.
While the massive infrastructure bill passage was chalked up as a political win for President Joe Biden, the billions of dollars to be invested into upgrading and expanding Alaska’s sparse infrastructure will have an outsized impact on a state rightfully considered America’s Last Frontier.
Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, pointed out that Alaska has fewer road miles than Connecticut, a state about 120 times smaller.
“We are a resource-rich, infrastructure-poor state,” he said during the annual conference hosted by the Resource Development Council of Alaska.
This is why Alaska’s entire congressional delegation, all Republicans, as well as civic and political leaders across the 49th State, got behind the bipartisan legislation.
“It’s going to be a lot of money … billions of dollars to construct and modernize our roads, our bridges, our ports, our airports,” said Murkowski. “It’s not just going to be the opportunity for better roads, but to see more of them.”
More roads could help make Alaska’s rich mineral resources more competitive.
“It is often said that if Alaska’s impressive mineral deposits were in the state of Nevada, with infrastructure like roads, ports, and energy grids, they would already be mines,” said Alaska Miners Association Executive Director Deantha Skibinski. “We’re pleased that the infrastructure package includes significant investment in building Alaska, which will make investment in resource development more attractive.”
For Alaska’s mining sector, however, provisions to streamline the federal mine permitting process may be even more important than the massive investments into roads, rails, ports, airports, and other infrastructure that will be built from the minerals and metals these mines could supply.
“The federal agencies are going to have a responsibility and a requirement to start issuing permits more efficiently and with less delay,” said Murkowski.
Alaska’s senior senator pushed back on the notion that the infrastructure bill is a bad thing because it is being chalked up as a win for the Biden administration.