Groundhog Day

Late April, Quaterra Resources, Inc., a British Columbia mining company announced an agreement with the Chuchuna Minerals, Co., jointly owned by the Kijik Village Corporation and Alaska Earth Sciences to explore a 40,000 acre copper prospect.  The prospect lies roughly midway between the Pebble prospect and the Donlin Creek prospect in western Alaska.

The first year of exploration will bring in $1 million with $500,000 yearly for the following four years, not a small sum in that impoverished part of the state.

Of course, given the location, the Usual Suspects who had some success fighting Pebble over the last decade are busily ramping up the opposition, trotting out all the same old tired, cliched arguments, signs, slogans, and public opinion pieces.

But the times have changed.  This state is in worst recession since the late 1980s.  We lost some 9,000 high-paying, long term jobs last year.  Given the unstable economic, taxation, and regulatory environment today, there is not a lot of hope for new job creation any time soon, which is why this new mining prospect is vital.

Bottom line is that we need jobs in this state – stable, long-term, high paying, and if they can be created in one of the poorest parts of the state, even better.  We can no longer afford to screw around with endless anti-development political campaigns, where the opposition has nothing at risk.

This leads me to an idea.  Given that DNR Commissioner Andy Mack is suddenly enamored with the notion of requiring new mine efforts to post bonds for cleanup, remediation, and other imagined hazards to the environment, perhaps it is time to require the opposition groups and individuals to do the same thing, if for no other reason than fairness and to level the economic playing field.

Opposition entities ought to be required to post a bond payable to the resource development corporation and their stockholders for the amount the company will lose in delays, legal machinations, and changes in its proposals due to the opposition.  If the process is delayed but the company wins each point in the argument, the opposition pays its bond.

After all, fair is fair.  And can no longer afford to allow taxpayer supported non-profits, rent seeking entities, or businesses using the public process to protect their place in the marketplace to profit from serial opposition to resource development here in Alaska.

Alex Gimarc lives in Anchorage since retiring from the military in 1997. His interests include science and technology, environment, energy, economics, military affairs, fishing and disabilities policies. His weekly column “Interesting Items” is a summary of news stories with substantive Alaska-themed topics. He is a small business owner and Information Technology professional.

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