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A key bill passed during the recently completed legislative session aims to improve Southeast's economy.
The bill authorizes the state to finance two mining projects near Ketchikan and a hydroelectric project in Sitka.
The Niblack mine would be the source of precious metals. The Bokan-Dotson Ridge mine would produce rare earth elements used in technological devices, many of which are made in China and sold in the United States. China has the largest developed mines for the elements.
Financing for the mines could be available through the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, while the Alaska Energy Authority would have the authority to approve up to $18.6 million in loans for the Blue Lake Hydroelectric Project.
Sitka has been searching for access to low-interest loans to complete construction of the hydroelectric facility without burdening ratepayers.
For the Bokan mine, AIDEA would be allowed to issue up to $145 million in bonds to finance the surface infrastructure. Building the project would create about 300 jobs, and operation of the mine about 190.
For the Niblack mine, AIDEA would be permitted to issue up to $125 million in bonds to finance a Gravina Island Industrial Complex for an ore-processing facility. The project would realize about 200 jobs.
Southeast needs the jobs. It lost jobs during the decline of the timber industry in the late 1990s and since. Those jobs provided family-supporting wages, and it's jobs like that the mining operations would provide once again.
This is economic development legislation at its best.