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  6.  | NANA Withdraws from Ambler Access Project

NANA Withdraws from Ambler Access Project

May 8, 2024 | Alaska Native, Mining, News

Gates of the Arctic National Park

Wirestock | Dreamstime

While unhappy with the Biden administration’s decision to block a proposed mining road in Northwest Alaska, the board of NANA Regional Corporation has its own reasons for exiting the project. Board members decided to not renew a permit for further access to its lands in the Ambler mining district.

Unmet Criteria

The permit for the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA) to continue developing the Ambler Access Project (AAP) was set to expire later this year. A statement from NANA says the decision to withdraw “reflects unmet criteria, insufficient consultation, and a lack of confidence in the project’s alignment with our values and community interests.”

The statement adds that AIDEA did not sufficiently address specific criteria that NANA established to consider supporting AAP—including controlled access, protection of caribou migration routes and subsistence resources, job creation, and community benefits.

“For more than forty years, NANA has successfully developed our resources alongside trusted industry partners in ways that respect our way of life and advance our region as a whole,” says NANA President and CEO John Lincoln. “While NANA is disengaging from the AAP, we maintain our interest in future mineral development in the region that aligns with the expectations of our shareholders.”

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May 2024

AIDEA’s fieldwork was meant to inform a final investment decision, which had been expected this year, by Ambler Metals, a joint venture owned by South32 Limited and Trilogy Metals. Key to the mineral development is the proposed 211-mile industrial-only road connecting the Dalton Highway to deposits of copper and critical minerals in the Upper Kobuk region of the Northwest Arctic Borough.

The route would run through a 25-mile corridor of Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve. In 2021, the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) granted a fifty-year right-of-way over federal lands. A year later, the Department of the Interior suspended that decision, pointing to deficiencies in BLM’s analysis of impacts to subsistence uses under Section 810 of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act and its consultation with tribes pursuant to the National Historic Preservation Act Section 106.27.

Last month, the Biden administration formally denied re-approval of AAP.

In its statement, NANA raises concerns with BLM’s final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, saying it goes beyond the law in several aspects and threatens Native corporations’ responsibility to advance the socioeconomic interests of shareholders.

“Our Elders fought to retain our ancestral lands in the Upper Kobuk, emphasizing both their subsistence value and mineral resource potential. It is our responsibility to steward these lands for future generations,” says NANA Board Chair Gia Hanna. “All decisions about development on our lands need to be made by and with our people at the table. We intend to vigorously defend our right to pursue resource and infrastructure development in alignment with our values.”

NANA argues that the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, which redesignated Gates of the Arctic National Monument as a national park in 1980, authorizes surface transportation to the Dalton Highway. NANA says if its shareholders and Northwest Arctic communities find the right time and partnerships to build an access road, then federal law will be on their side.

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Making History

May 2024

The track of oil and gas development in Alaska shows the footprints of bold companies and hard-working individuals who shaped the industry in the past and continue to innovate today. The May 2024 issue of Alaska Business explores that history while looking forward to new product development, the energy transition for the fishing fleet, and the ethics of AI tools in business.

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