Welcome to Mining Month at Alaska Business
Welcome to the Alaska Business special Mining Issue. As an Alaska-based, business-focused, community-minded publication (I love hyphens, what can I say?), we spend a lot of time talking about oil and gas. Many argue it is the foundation of Alaska’s economy, but oil and gas are not the only natural resources that make significant contributions to the state’s fiscal well-being.
Export activities for mining commodities account for about $1.5 billion, more than one-third of the state’s total exports, according to “The Economic Benefits of Alaska’s Mining Industry” published earlier this year in by the Alaska Miners Association. Not only are Alaska’s six large operating mines, hundreds of small placer mines, and industry-related support services responsible for billions of dollars in exports, they account for thousands of jobs for Alaskans statewide. Last year the mining industry in Alaska provided 4,350 direct mining jobs and 8,600 total direct and indirect jobs. Since mining offers some of the highest paying jobs in the state at an annual average wage of $108,000 (more than twice the state average for all sectors of the economy), it only follows that the mining industry would be a major contributor to the state in the form of $23 million in local government revenue through property and other taxes; $81 million in state government-related revenue including rent, royalties, fees, and taxes; and $675 million in total direct and indirect payroll, according to the report, prepared by the McDowell Group at the behest of the Alaska Miners Association to research the economic impact of mining in Alaska.
Exports, job growth, and taxes are not the only contributions made by this sector of Alaska’s vast and abundant natural resources. Exploration is key to growth potential for any natural resource, and in 2016 alone the mining industry spent more than $65 million on exploration activities and another $120 million on mine construction and capital investment.
“Exploration activity is so welcome to Alaska not only for its potential to further new mines but also because the immediate economic benefits largely stay in Alaska. Exploration activity by nature includes the necessity of flight services, lodges and camps, and food services providers that are chiefly provided by Alaska businesses and individuals… exploration of new deposits and early-stage projects across Alaska ensued this field season, again signaling that the eyes of investors are on Alaska and what its geology has to offer,” says Deantha Crockett, executive director of the Alaska Miners Association, in her expert commentary published on page 38 in this issue.
Along with an extensive update on Alaska’s mining industry, we are also proud to present the 2017 Resource Development special section with an overview of the state’s timber industry by Alaska Forest Association Executive Director Owen Graham, a profile of family-owned sawmill operations in Southeast Alaska, and a deep-dive into the amazing world of at-sea fish processing, as well as Alaska’s state-managed and privately-operated salmon hatcheries.
Thank you again to the entire Alaska Business team for putting together another exceptional issue full of news, information, and expert opinions celebrating Alaska’s natural resources.
—Kathryn Mackenzie, Managing Editor, Alaska Business
This article first appeared in the November 2017 print edition of Alaska Business Monthly.