Biden Administration Expected to Reject Controversial Alaska Road Project

The Biden administration is poised to decline a contentious road-building project aimed at facilitating the extraction of major copper and zinc deposits in the remote Alaskan wilderness. This move is anticipated to be announced in a final environmental analysis expected later this week, according to sources familiar with the decision.

The Ambler Road project, spanning 211 miles, has been a focal point of debate, receiving approval during the previous administration’s tenure just before President Donald Trump left office. However, its construction has faced significant opposition from various quarters, including indigenous tribes and environmental groups.

Key among the concerns has been the potential impact on tribal communities and subsistence resources. An earlier draft of the project’s environmental impact statement highlighted restrictions on subsistence hunting and fishing for more than 30 tribal communities if the road were to be built, prompting apprehension within the Biden administration.

The Tanana Chiefs Conference, representing numerous villages in interior Alaska, initiated legal action against the Interior Department in 2020, citing inadequacies in the environmental analysis and its failure to adequately address the project’s impacts on their traditional way of life.

Furthermore, a 2021 investigation revealed allegations that officials under the Trump administration downplayed potential adverse effects on subsistence activities and exerted pressure to alter findings related to environmental impacts.

The Biden administration’s impending decision is expected to draw criticism from Alaska lawmakers and the state agency overseeing the project, who have advocated for its advancement, citing economic benefits and national security concerns.

The rejection of the Ambler Road project could have significant ramifications for mining ventures in the Ambler Mining district, potentially leaving valuable copper and zinc assets inaccessible without the infrastructure provided by the proposed road.

Ambler Metals, a joint venture between Trilogy Metals (TSX: TMQ) and South32, has actively supported the project, investing substantial resources in lobbying efforts to secure approval. Similarly, the Alaska Native corporation NANA Corp, with subsurface rights in the mining district, has collaborated with Ambler Metals in developing the deposit.

Trilogy Metals sunk by more than 48% on opening bell following the news.

“Unlawful and politically motivated decision”

However, uncertainties loom over the future of the project, particularly regarding legal challenges and the involvement of regional stakeholders. Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA), the agency overseeing the project, has already expended considerable funds on the Ambler Road initiative and may pursue legal action in response to the administration’s decision.

Yesterday, AIDEA released a statement in reaction to recent media disclosures suggesting that the Department of the Interior intends to impede access to the Ambler Mining District by opting for a “no action” determination. Through its press release, AIDEA emphatically implores the department to adhere to federal regulations and the commitments made during statehood, permitting access to state lands and mineral resources for the Ambler Road project.

“We are stunned to hear reports that BLM may deny the Ambler Access Project, which received full federal approval four years ago and would enable safe and responsible domestic production of minerals that are critical for our national security and clean energy technologies,” said Kaleb Froehlich, Managing Director of Ambler Metals.

Froehlich urges the department “to reconsider what would clearly be an unlawful and politically motivated decision that goes well beyond the narrow set of issues the courts agreed to allow the agency to address.”

Amber Road project wouldn’t be the first Alaskan project this year to drag the US government to court. Northern Dynasty Minerals has taken legal action against the US government’s decision to block its Pebble project in Alaska. They filed two separate lawsuits, one in Alaska’s federal district court challenging the EPA’s veto of the development at Pebble, and another in the US Court of Federal Claims claiming an unconstitutional “taking” of their property.

The company argues that the EPA’s veto violated federal statutes and a land exchange approved by Congress. They assert that the veto was based on an “overly broad legal interpretation” of the EPA’s jurisdiction and flawed information, aiming to overturn the veto to advance their mining project, which they claim would not have unacceptable adverse effects. They also seek compensation for any violation of their rights under the Fifth Amendment.

Despite legal challenges, the company remains focused on obtaining permits for the Pebble project, which is estimated to yield significant amounts of copper, gold, molybdenum, silver, and rhenium over its projected 20-year mine life.


Information for this briefing was found via Politico, Mining.com, and the sources mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to this organization. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.

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