ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority Board of Directors have voted during an emergency meeting to set aside $35 million for a mining road in northwest Alaska, bypassing standard requirements for taking loans from its revolving fund.
Authority President Tom Boutin said that the action by the board will allow the authority to issue loans more effectively to offset potential economic side effects brought on by the coronavirus. The meeting was originally called to approve a series of economic measures intended to combat the pandemic.
Funding for the Ambler Road Project was put on the emergency agenda to stimulate job creation, Anchorage Daily News reported.
“We’re going to create 100-200 jobs immediately that otherwise would have gone to waste and been postponed to 2021,” board member Al Fogle said.
The proposed 200-mile (320-kilometer) industrial road would stretch from Dalton Highway to the Ambler Mining District northeast of Kotzebue and cross Gates of the Arctic National Park to access an undeveloped copper-zinc mineral belt.
“We can do this. We can deploy the money. We can get people out working,” said Mark Davis, the authority’s chief infrastructure investment officer. Any work is contingent upon financial support from one or more of the mines that would use the road.
Environmental groups have criticized the cost of the project and raised concerns over its route through a national park, while others have said the project could affect federal subsistence rights.
Conservation group Alaska Wildlife Alliance called the decision to fund the project inappropriate when there are more pressing economic impacts facing residents of Alaska, KTOO-FM reported.
During the emergency meeting, the board also approved a measure that waives its normal loan-granting procedures and another that immediately provides $50 million to underwrite small loans issued to Alaska businesses by Alaska banks.