With the re-inauguration of the President, Alaska’s miners are being forced to hunker down and withstand yet another election cycle wondering what gifts the federal agencies will bestow upon us now.
Interior Secretary Salazar is out. His replacement has yet to be identified; however, there is little room to be optimistic. Even under friendly administrations, the selection of Secretary of the Interior has not served us well. The environmentalist community undoubtedly has the President’s ear at some level, but for the most part, issues hostile to mining have gained very little traction in Washington during the first term, and perhaps we shall be equally fortunate during the second.
Despite the vast federal domain in Alaska, development of natural resources on the public front has gotten the treatment a bastard orphan would expect to receive. Present, possibly necessary, under control, but generally ignored. Occasionally, the National Park Service causes an adrenaline spike with regard to a World Heritage Site for Beringia or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service precipitates a question as to whether the re-introduced wood bison will sooner or later become endangered, but generally the big conversation about Interior agencies, revolves around money, and as long as there are frugal forces in Congress, Interior will probably be precluded from doing too much harm.
The new secretary will have to spend a lot more time worrying about how he is going to keep the Washington Monument open than how many new million-dollar toilet facilities he can build in Denali National Park.
Agriculture Secretary Vilsack is going to stay. How he relates to the National Forest System probably will not change. No successor has been named for Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, so the Tongass and Chugach National Forests will probably remain so bound up with bureaucratic red tape that it will take divine intervention for any substantial new mines, even very promising properties like Bokan Mountain and Herbert Glacier, to ever become working mines.
Likewise, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health Joseph Main appears to be sticking around. His draconian minions may be expected to continue their march on mining.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson is out, and a proposed successor has not yet been identified; however, it is hard to imagine that any successor could be worse when it comes to fanatical anti-development regulation.
In brief, the pressure from Washington, at least when it comes to mining in Alaska will continue to be a negative force.
I am reminded that the mining industry in Alaska is healthy and safe, that the mineralization found in Canada and the Russian Far East does not stop at our borders, and that the global population continues to be incremented by hordes of new faces who are envious of the toys and tools of the 21st Century that are made from metals and minerals found in abundance in Alaska.
Conceding that the Great Community Organizer probably knows very little about the electricity that comes out of the hole in his wall, not to mention how it got there, it always seems incredulous to me that the contemporary recovery of metals and minerals precipitates such benign neglect and indifference, if not outright opposition from our leaders. Fundamental reason, if not informed analysis, should be sufficient to grasp the notion that just as the United States is emerging as the world leader in the production of energy minerals through the creative development; so too do we have the potential to show the world how modern mining can and should be conducted.