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3/26/2014
Develop mines

Alaska must invest in itself to build the economy, and the idea of a state industrial development authority applying its means to create mining opportunities is an excellent one.

It's one of those ideas that makes one wonder why it hadn't been proposed sooner.

Sen. Bert Stedman, who represents the Ketchikan area and parts of Prince of Wales Island in the Legislature, has introduced two amendments to a bill that could result in $270 million for two proposed mines nearby.

With the passage of Senate Bill 99, the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority would be allowed to issue bonds to finance infrastructure and construction costs for the Niblack and Bokan-Dotson Ridge mines.

The Niblack, the site of copper, silver and gold ore, would be in line for $125 million, while the rare earth Bokan mine could expect $145 million.

AIDEA, which currently owns the Ketchikan Shipyard, has been successful in developing capital projects. The shipyard is a perfect example; it has provided year-round employment in the community.

The timing of Stedman's amendments is optimal.

Manufacturers use rare earth minerals for high technology, including computer and aviation parts and products.

China, the world's main supplier of rare earth minerals, has in recent years implemented export quotas. These quotas could affect the manufacture of technology, which places not only the United States but other nations at an economic disadvantage with China.

It seems that the time has come for Alaska's rare earth mine, and developing the copper, silver and gold ore mine isn't a bad idea, either.