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  6.  | Ambler Metals Approves Matching Funds for Mining Road

Ambler Metals Approves Matching Funds for Mining Road

May 4, 2023 | Mining, News

A map of the proposed road to the Ambler Mining District.


The joint venture hoping to develop the Ambler Mining District, east of Kotzebue, approved $12.3 million for this year’s work on an access road, matching a state agency’s investment.

Half and Half with AIDEA 

The board of Ambler Metals voted in March to approve its half of the planned $24.6 million for field studies, data collection, and permitting. The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA) is providing the other half.

AIDEA is proposing to build and operate the Ambler Access Project (AAP), a 211-mile road from the Dalton Highway to the Ambler Mining District in the Northwest Arctic Borough. The industrial road would allow the extraction of ore from the Upper Kobuk Mineral Projects being developed by Ambler Metals, a joint venture owned by South32 Limited and Trilogy Metals.

The field work would inform a budget for a final investment decision in 2024. It is also meant to support the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as the agency reconsiders permits for the road.

In 2021, BLM granted a fifty-year right-of-way through a 25 mile stretch of Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve. However, in March 2022 the US Department of the Interior suspended that decision. A year ago, a federal judge granted the department’s request for a remand while it supplements the record.

BLM anticipates publishing a draft supplemental environmental impact statement by July, open for public comment upon publication. A final statement is expected by the end of this year.

The lawsuit challenging the right-of-way was filed by the Northern Alaska Environmental Center and several other environmental and conservation groups, and a subsequent separate lawsuit was filed by Tanana Chiefs Conference and several tribes. In February, three of the six tribes withdrew as plaintiffs: the Native Village of Kobuk Traditional Council, Allakaket Tribal Council, and Huslia Tribal Council.

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In April, the Northwest Arctic Borough and North Slope Borough assemblies passed a joint resolution endorsing the AAP.

“The Ambler Access Project is an opportunity to create high-paying jobs within the region so that our tribal members and their families can remain in their communities,” says Wilmer Beetus, chief and mayor of Hughes, a Koyukuk River village south of the proposed route. “The Ambler Access Project will responsibly co-exist with the subsistence needs of families and communities in the region.”

For this summer’s field work, AIDEA is focused on utilizing two camps at Coldfoot and Bornite. The planned field program will consist of cultural resource inventory surveys and testing of sites over approximately 765 acres, hydraulic and hydrology studies at forty-seven bridge crossings to assess conditions for area drainage, culvert placement and bridge design, collecting topographical and bathymetric survey data to support bridge data and fish passage culverts, engineering reconnaissance surveys, and fish habitat investigations at more than 100 sites.

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