Alaska Native corporation withdraws from the Ambler Road project

The Kobuk River runs through the Ambler Mining district. (Berett Wilber/Alaska Public Media)

NANA Regional Corporation announced on Wednesday that it plans to withdraw from the Ambler Road project, at least for now. That’s according to a press release saying the project does not align with the corporation’s values and community interests. 

The project is a 211-mile proposed road that would branch off from the Dalton Highway to access mineral deposits in Northwest Alaska. 

The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority was pursuing the multi-million dollar project, which would open up access to a region speculated to contain large deposits of critical minerals, like cobalt and zinc. The road would pass through federal, state and Native-owned land. NANA had previously been neutral on the project. 

The corporation also said in the release that it does not plan to renew land access permits to AIDEA.

NANA said AIDEA insufficiently addressed criteria needed for the corporation to support the Ambler Road project, like protection of caribou and subsistence resources, as well as job creation and community benefits. 

This withdrawal follows a decision last month from the Biden administration to choose a “no action” alternative on key permitting documents — which essentially stopped the project from moving forward. Alaska’s congressional delegation criticized the decision. 

NANA officials wrote in the release that the federal Bureau of Land Management’s documents “go beyond the law in several aspects.” The corporation claimed that BLM did not have meaningful consultation with NANA and that NANA continues to resist attempts by the federal government to deny Alaska Native corporations’ control over decision-making affecting their lands. 

However, NANA is not withdrawing support for mineral exploration in the Ambler Mining District. A representative from NANA says the decision does not affect the corporation’s partnership with Ambler Metals, a mining company pursuing development in the region.  

NANA President and CEO John Lincoln said in the press release, “While NANA is disengaging from the Ambler Access Project, we maintain our interest in future mineral development in the region that aligns with the expectations of our shareholders.” 

Last year, the Alaska Native corporation Doyon, which owns the land on the eastern end of the proposed road, also withdrew its support for the project after disputes with AIDEA.

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