State must diversify for jobs: Mining can play an important role in the future of Alaska

Voices of the State

Posted: Thursday, March 06, 2008

Mining is a growing industry in Alaska, bringing family wage jobs to Alaskans, paying substantial taxes to state and local governments and forming important partnerships with private landholders, such as NANA and Calista corporations. Estimated 2007 economic impacts of Alaska's mining industry recently were released in a report prepared for the Alaska Miners Association by McDowell Group Inc., a well-known economic consulting firm with offices in Anchorage, Kodiak and Juneau. This report can be downloaded from

A few statistics for 2007 include:

* 5,500 direct and indirect jobs for residents of more than 100 communities throughout the state, including a payroll of $340 million. The average annual wage of $80,000 is 90 percent higher than the state average wage for all sectors;

* $189 million in tax payments and fees to state and local governments, including $80 million in corporate income tax making mining the second largest corporate income tax paying sector after the petroleum sector;

* $170 million in payments to Alaska Native corporations, mostly from the Red Dog Mine. Roughly 60 percent of the payments to NANA Corp. from the Red Dog Mine are shared with the other 11 regional corporations that, in turn, are shared with village corporations;

* Total exploration expenditures exceeded $275 million;

* Total mine development expenditures were at $274 million, mostly for the Kensington project near Juneau and the Rock Creek project near Nome; and

* Total gross mineral production was at $3.4 billion.

All of these benefits, yet we currently have only five large producing mines in the state (in comparison Nevada has more than 25 gold mines, alone). We also have more than 210 permitted placer operations and rock, sand and gravel processors that provide important jobs for workers in many remote and urban areas of Alaska.

Alaska must diversify its industries to ensure continuation of a stable economy, which is needed to preserve our existing lifestyles and the environment resources that surround us.

The above statistics suggest that mining can provide an important leg for the economic stool that is needed to support our future.

As responsible Alaskans looking toward the future needs of this great state, we must band together to support responsible mineral resource development in Alaska.

Winona J. Lee is the Kenai branch chairperson for the Alaska Miners Association.

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