After several years of decline, Alaska’s mining industry seems to be clawing its way back. With a host of new mining exploration announcements in recent months as many commodity prices recover from a yearslong tailspin, industry experts in the state say more companies are eyeing Alaska as a place to spend money prospecting and developing projects.
“It was a three- to four-year decline,” said Curt Freeman, president of Fairbanks mineral exploration consulting firm Avalon Development Corp. “But the upturn, you could kind of feel it in the last year.”
When commodity prices drop, companies tend to focus their spending on maintaining current operations in places where they already have infrastructure, said Deantha Crockett, executive director of the Alaska Miners Association. Isolated Alaska feels the squeeze even harder, she said, because during tougher times, companies don’t want to spend money exploring such remote areas.
Between 2012 and 2015, global spending on exploration declined 50 percent, but Alaska was even more affected. During the same time frame, exploration spending in the state took an 83 percent nosedive, according to numbers the Alaska Miners Association compiled from the state’s Department of Natural Resources and market intelligence firm SNL Metals & Mining.
“It was massive,” said Crockett of the impact of the global mining downturn on Alaska. “Because of our remoteness, and the cost of doing anything here is even more high — when you’re making very careful decisions about investments, Alaska just fell behind.”
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