ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The board of the state-owned Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority and a mining company agreed to split $70 million in pre-construction costs for a 200-mile (322 kilometer) mining road despite opposition from environmental groups and local residents.
The opposition groups argue that the road would negatively affect wildlife in the region, which includes the Gates of the Arctic National Park. Metal mining is the leading source of toxic releases in the state, according to a 2018 analysis conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The Ambler Road would connect Dalton Highway to a region of northwestern Alaska where there are several large metal mining prospects, the Anchorage Daily News reported Thursday.
Ambler Metals, a firm co-owned by mining companies in Canada and Australia, will contribute the other $35 million into pre-constructing the mine road.
Ambler Metals told the Daily News that CEO Ramzi Fawaz was unavailable to talk by phone Wednesday.
Bernie Karl, a member of AIDEA’s board of directors, expressed enthusiasm about Wednesday’s approval and said the project would generate profits.
“I think that this might be the best thing that we’ve done in a while,” Karl said. “It’s the best thing for Alaska.”
“This is the future,” Karl added. “This is the future of our state. This is the future of our next generation, and I couldn’t be happier.”
Two lawsuits have been filed to block construction on the proposed mine. A collection of Interior villages and a group of environmental organizations each sued the federal government late last year. Each suit argues that former President Donald Trump’s administration improperly granted permission for the road.