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America’s Plan du Nord? Mining’s benefits for Alaska

A profile of Alaska’s mining industry in Petroleum News showcases the benefits the sector provides to the state, including “substantial and growing contributions” to Alaska’s economy and its communities.

Here are some of the piece’s key points:

  • In 2011, the mining industry accounted for 4,500 direct and 4,500 indirect jobs, most of which were year-round jobs.
  • With total spending of $620 million on direct and indirect payroll, and annual averages of about $100,000, mining registered some of the highest wages in the state.
  • Rents, royalties, fees and taxes filled state coffers to the tune of $148 million (an increase of 170 percent over 2010 revenues), while local governments received $17 million through property taxes and other payments. This is on top of more than $70 million in other payments into state coffers, such as for transportation and construction projects.
  • Mining companies spent more than $300 million on mineral exploration projects in the state in 2011.

The profile also highlights the ripple effects for other Alaska native corporations, and touts the civic impact of the mining industry representing the most significant private-sector presence in many communities.

The conclusion: while challenges have to be overcome, “further development of Alaska’s mineral resources would bring additional benefits in the form of more high-wage jobs and increased spending with local vendors as well as government and Alaska Native revenue from taxes and royalties. The presence of responsible mining organizations also would dramatically improve the quality of life for many Alaskans who will never see the inside of a mine.”

While Alaska is already benefiting from its natural resources, the sheer vastness of its mineral wealth alone suggests that much more can be done. A look to the Canada may be in order, where the Canadian province of Quebec is pursuing its ambitious Plan du Nord. As American Resources principal Daniel McGroarty points out in his latest column for Real Clear World, the idea behind the comprehensive plan which encompasses the allocation of $80 billion to resource exploration, is to develop the province’s mineral riches in “strategic bid to contribute to the wealth and prominence of the province.”

Given its vast mineral potential, Alaska may well be America’s Plan du Nord. The question is, are we ready to implement it?