Biden administration deals setback to Ambler road

A winding river fro mabove
The Kobuk River runs through the Ambler Mining District, where a new road would be built to connect the Northwest Arctic with the Dalton Highway to Fairbanks. (Berett Wilber/Alaska Public Media)

The Biden administration is reeling back federal permission for the proposed Ambler road, a project that would support large-scale mining in Northwest Alaska.

In a court filing Tuesday, the administration agreed with road opponents that the environmental analysis of the project is flawed. The Interior Department wants to reconsider the federal right-of-way permits that the Trump administration granted.

Alaska’s congressional delegation blasted the decision. Sen. Lisa Murkowski called the move a setback for the project but said the fight is not over.

“This project is too important to us in the state, to the people in the region, and really to the country for the resource,” said Murkowski.

The Ambler mining district is believed to contain large amounts of good-quality copper and other minerals that proponents say will be important to an economy based on renewable resources. The proposed access road would stretch 211 miles in the Brooks Range, with 26 of those miles in the Gates of the Arctic National Park.

Tanana Chiefs Conference considers the road a threat to fish, game and the subsistence way of life. Amber Vaska, TCC’s executive director of tribal government, said the previous administration’s review of the project was too narrow.

“They actually ignored mining and they were only approving permits for the road itself, even though that road — the whole reason for building it was for mining,” she said.

Views in the region are mixed. State Sen. Donny Olson, a Democrat who represents Northwest Alaska, said his constituents need the road and the mining it will support.

RELATED: Proposed Ambler project underscores promise and peril of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her at Read more about Liz here.

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