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Legislation to Grow Southeast Alaska Economy Moves Forward

Senate Bill 99 allows for financing of REE and Multi-Mineral Mines near Ketchikan

JUNEAU-The House Labor and Commerce Committee has moved Senate Bill 99, sponsored by Senator Lesil McGuire (R-Anchorage), which would give the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA) the ability to issue bonds for two multi-mineral mining projects in Southeast Alaska while also making technical amendments to the Sustainable Energy Transmission and Supply (SETS) Fund within AIDEA.

“Senate Bill 99 and other bills like it show the financial markets and the rest of the mining industry that Alaska is open for business,” said Senator McGuire. “These two projects will give a much-needed economic injection into Southeast Alaska in the same way the SETS fund is helping Interior Alaska with the gas-trucking project the Legislature passed last year.”

One amendment to the bill allows AIDEA to issue bonds to finance the infrastructure and construction costs of the Bokan-Dotson Ridge rare earth element (REE) project located on Prince of Wales Island about 40 miles southwest of Ketchikan.

SB99, by allowing AIDEA to help secure funding for the Bokan-Dotson REE project, furthers the work completed by legislators last year to push for the development of REEs. In April last year, the Alaska State Legislature unanimously voted in favor of Senate Joint Resolution 8, sponsored by Senate McGuire, stating the Legislature’s support for continued and increased exploration, extraction, processing and production of REEs in Alaska.

REEs are needed to make a wide-variety of items including high-tech military equipment, wind turbines, solar panels, advanced batteries, geothermal steam turbines, plus almost all high-tech consumer goods including flat screen TVs, computers, tablets and cell phones. China currently controls 95-percent of the world’s rare earth elements, but reduced the exports of those elements by 54-percent between 2005 to 2010, and then another by nearly 50-percent in from 2010 to 2011.

“It poses a huge risk to our national and energy security to be forced to rely on foreign countries for these critical minerals,” said Senator McGuire. “That’s why as a nation, we need to take a ‘Made in the USA’ approach to developing and producing the rare earth minerals that we have in our own backyard. Closer to home, developing this mine will put our State in the driver’s seat of the REE revolution while creating hundreds of jobs for Alaskans.”

The second amendment to SB99 would allow AIDEA to issue bonds to finance the development of the Niblack mine project and the Gravina Island Industrial Complex (near Ketchikan) for an ore processing facility. Niblack is a gold, copper, zinc, and silver deposit also located on Prince of Wales Island. During mine operations, Niblack has the potential to provide 200 full-time jobs, with about two-thirds of workers at the mine site and one-third at the processing facility.

“This bill is just the beginning of what I envision will be the revitalization of Southeast Alaska’s economy which is still reeling from the loss of the Timber Industry at the hands of the Federal Government,” said Senator McGuire.

Senate Bill 99 now heads to the House Rules Committee for further consideration.

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