The contributions of mining to human advancement are taken for granted when people take off in their cars, talk on their cell phones, watch the television, cook on their stoves, and many other ordinary and extraordinary activities. Elements from the earth make our lives comfortable, healthy, and safe, but the investment in people, equipment, and infrastructure necessary to produce those elements in a safe, responsible way is often overlooked. Dams at mines are an important part of the infrastructure contributing to the well-being of society that are not overlooked.
As the relatively-new head of the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA), John Springsteen is focusing on a number of important issues concerning mining and resource development: responsible resource development, access, and enterprise infrastructure.
Alaska is one-fifth the size of the rest of the United States, with more coastline than all other states combined. This state contains immense natural resources, including minerals and offshore resources like oil and gas and seafood.
As a life-long Alaskan, I’m proud to call this state home and I’m equally proud to represent Alaska’s mining industry. As our state copes with a serious fiscal crisis, mining is one of the few industries with great potential for growth, which would mean more good jobs, more state revenue, and more diversity for Alaska’s economy.
Usibelli Coal Mine (UCM) has provided affordable fuel to power plants in interior Alaska since 1943—more than seventy-three years and going strong! The future of UCM looks bright, as major consumers of coal in Interior Alaska are making sizable investments in modernizing and expanding facilities that rely on coal to produce electric power and space heating.
Some years back I heard Alaska Mining Hall of Famer Ernie Wolf say that a pessimist was an optimist with experience. Unfortunately, “experienced optimists” are in over-supply in the mining industry right now, both worldwide and here in Alaska, as the global mining industry enters its fifth consecutive year of depressed commodities prices, lackluster corporate financial performances, and a disinterested investment climate.
During the last several years, various media outlets in Alaska have been rife with discussion of the potential for economic development in the US Arctic, which is essentially northern Alaska.
In my role at Alaska’s trade association representing the mining industry, I am frequently approached with inquiries all bearing the same theme: “How are things in the mining industry?” Especially in today’s environment of low commodity prices, reduced state and federal government spending, and layoffs in the multi-industry support sector, Alaskans and Americans are interested in learning what the future of mining may look like and how the industry may impact the economy.
The past thirty years witnessed Alaska’s economic growth through climbing and falling oil prices, growing pains of Alaska Native corporation prosperity, and a position in global logistics eyed by not only businesses but also the US military.