The Biden administration is expected to block an agency of the State of Alaska’s application to build a 211-mile road through northwestern Alaska to reach an area long known for its mineral richness. The road-building project is proposed by the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA) and is needed to access major copper and zinc deposits needed for Biden’s “clean energy” transition, including transmission lines, wind turbines and photovoltaic cells. Biden’s failure to permit the road blocks access to over 600,000 acres of land owned by Alaska that is rich in copper, zinc, lead, silver and cobalt deposits. The proposed 211-mile-long Ambler Road was initially approved under the Trump administration, which issued a 50-year right-of-way permit to build the road just days before President Trump left office. AIDEA, the state’s economic development agency, argues that the action will break commitments made at statehood in 1959 by denying Alaskans access to their resources.

The Biden administration is expected to explain its decision that is based on presumed negative impact on tribal communities that claim that the project poses a threat to local wildlife and fisheries. The decision is due 90 days after the publication of the environmental impact statement to be released this week. The Biden administration has handed the environmentalist movement major victories in Alaska, including the cancellation of previously-awarded oil and gas lease sales, major restrictions on drilling activity in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and a proposal to remove lands from oil and development in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.

Biden’s decision on the Ambler Access project, however, ignores the support of local communities for the project, denies jobs for Alaskans and critical revenues for a region where the young are being forced to leave because of a lack of opportunity. The project is backed by the state’s two Republican senators, Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, as well as its congressional representative, Representative Mary Peltola (D). The decision is likely to be challenged by the state agency overseeing the project and its rejection will infuriate Alaska lawmakers who lobbied the administration to allow the road to be built.


The Tanana Chiefs Conference, which represents 42 villages in interior Alaska, some of which are near the road, sued the Interior Department in 2020 over the Trump administration environmental analysis, arguing that it did not adequately address impacts to their way of life. Since the lawsuit was filed, however, three of the villages are now supporting the road because of its economic benefits. According to the Tanana Chiefs Conference, the road would cause harmful impacts along 125 miles and 200,000 acres of public lands managed by the State in trust for its people. The gravel access road would cross hundreds of rivers and streams, 26 miles of Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, and the tribal lands of several Alaska Native communities. The area south of the Brooks Range—a patchwork of wetlands and densely forested wilderness—is one of the largest roadless areas in North America, but most of Alaska is roadless and in order to promote economic development roads are necessary.  With oil revenues declining, Alaska is looking for ways to generate jobs and opportunity for people in its far-flung reaches for whom there is little but government programs.

The environmental impact statement produced under the Trump administration was determined to be “flawed” by the Biden administration and was scheduled to be reworked. As the Interior Department pursued that course of action, the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIEDA) was denied a right of way permit to continue with the project. Without the road, the copper and zinc assets in the Ambler Mining district in the northwestern part of the state remained effectively stranded. AIDEA has spent tens of millions of dollars on the Ambler Road project; it will be forced to file a legal challenge if the administration decides to reject the project or go back to the drawing board.

Ambler Metals, a joint venture between developers Trilogy Metals and South32, has been engaged in exploratory work in the region for several years and had requested the Interior department approve the road, spending $370,000 in the last two years. The Alaska Native corporation in the region, known as NANA Corporation, also owns some of the subsurface rights in the mining district and has a longstanding partnership with Ambler Metals to develop the deposit.  NANA has a history of mining projects, and operates the Red Dog Mine in Northwest Alaska, hiring and training local indigenous people who benefit from the mineral wealth on their own Native lands.  In Alaska, Native Corporations are chartered owners of their indigenous lands for the benefit of their people.


A right of way permit is needed for the Ambler Road project in northwestern Alaska to reach copper and zinc mines needed to produce critical minerals for Biden’s energy transition. However, the Biden administration is denying the permit as it believes that putting the road in Alaska will cause harm to tribal communities who are located near the road and who hunt and fish there. This decision will benefit China, who dominates the global supply chain and refining capacity for many of the key minerals necessary to build the “green” infrastructure pushed by the Biden administration. As the United States has no apparent strategy to ensure a stable domestic supply of these commodities, the Ambler Access Project would provide strategic infrastructure that can be safely built and boost Alaska’s economy, strengthening U.S. national security.

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