Today the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands held a legislative hearing on H.R. 587, the Niblack and Bokan Mountain Mining Area Roads Authorization Act, introduced earlier this year by Alaskan Congressman Don Young. The legislation would require the Secretary of Agriculture to establish two road corridors to connect the Prince of Wales Island road system with the Niblack and Bokan Mountain mining sites on the southeast side of Prince of Wales Island.
Niblack is a gold, copper, zinc and silver deposit, while Bokan holds rare earth elements, and currently, neither mine site enjoys road access, necessitating workers and supplies to travel by boat or air.
"Due to the steady decline of the timber industry in Southeast Alaska, the local economies, like those on Prince of Wales Island, have suffered the consequences. Both Niblack and Bokan Mountain mines would create hundreds of local area jobs, and my bill, H.R. 587, would simply extend existing roads to the mines, and provide safe and reliable access to a willing and able local workforce," Rep. Young said. "Additionally it would encourage the extension of the Island's hydroelectric transmission lines to the mines, removing fossil fuel consumption to support mine operations."
Testifying on behalf of the U.S. Forest Service, Deputy Chief of the National Forest System Leslie Weldon agreed with Rep. Young that developing the rare earth metals found at the Bokan mine are in the national interest.
"Despite the Forest Service's recognition that these resources should be developed, they suggest that workers should commute by boat, claiming it is more efficient. Any Alaskan knows that is ridiculous and will fail to encourage a strong resident workforce on the island. Once again, the Administration offers double talk when it comes to clearing hurdles and supporting efficient resource development. This bill will help create jobs and grow a struggling economy, extract needed strategic minerals, and promote renewable energy use."
H.R. 587 is supported by the Alaska Chamber of Commerce, Alaska Forest Association, Alaska Miners Association, City of Craig, Craig Tribal Association, Greater Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce, Prince of Wales Community Advisory Council, Resource Development Council, Southeast Conference, among others.