This week, approximately 1,000 miners are convening at the Dena’ina Center in downtown Anchorage for the Alaska Miners Association Annual Convention on the association’s 80th anniversary. They are taking an in-depth look at the responsible operations and the amazing people that make up a great mining industry in Alaska.
These are not the same people you may have heard about in recent conversations taking place around the state. Industry critics have claimed “miners” run brothels and prostitution rings and that they are responsible for increased sexual assault rates in communities near mines. I’ve spent the last eight years traveling to the far reaches of Alaska to visit mining operations and projects, and I have yet to meet the violent, irresponsible and dangerous people that anti-mining groups are trying to convince you are out there.
And that’s because they aren’t out there. If you find yourself at our convention, and I hope that you do, you’ll meet my friend Dave, a geologist who sends a lot of emails at midnight after he is done coaching kids’ hockey. You’ll meet Paul, a placer miner who just sent me photos of him at a Fairbanks school teaching kids about gold panning. You’ll meet mechanics and truck drivers and operators who are your neighbors, coach your kids, sit next to you at church and give back to their communities. They can tell you about their companies’ zero tolerance alcohol and drug policies and the emphasis on safety and training. To hear these people described as monsters is reprehensible.
There is no Alaska data to support these allegations. It certainly doesn’t exist in the NANA region in Northwest Alaska where Red Dog has not only significantly increased the quality of life for generations of shareholders and residents but also has supported Alaska Native corporations and their shareholders throughout the state.
It is absent here in Fairbanks, in Healy, and in Delta Junction and the surrounding Interior areas where not only have Usibelli, Fort Knox and Pogo mine employees been long-term positive contributors to the social fabric of our communities but also generations of placer mining families have literally built the communities we know today.
It is nowhere to be seen in Southeast Alaska where the miners at Greens Creek and Kensington are recognized as part of the glue that holds their communities together, not only through their economic impact but also through their proven volunteerism, charitable donations and just flat out being good neighbors.
It doesn’t exist at Donlin, Palmer, Ambler and Pebble, where current and future social impacts are integral to their project planning. It certainly doesn’t exist in the multitude of exploration projects around the state where operators fully understand that the way they conduct business, both on and off shift, set the stage for how a community will embrace a mining project.
People and groups that spread this type of misinformation are never held accountable, and it is time for that to change. It is obvious that people behind these attacks have lost the battle of science and reason when it comes to opposing mining projects. They are sadly left with ad hominem insults that they indiscriminately hurl in the hopes of stoking fear in the hearts of the uninformed.
I personally invite you to come either our Anchorage event this week or our Fairbanks event in late March and meet the people who are proud to work in Alaska’s mining industry. I think you’ll like us! And you’ll see for yourself that not only are the social impacts from mining greatly mischaracterized but also that the propaganda makes for a missed opportunity. Conservation groups could and should be working together with the mining industry on real community issues, and it is our sincere hope that Alaskans want to be part of that conversation.
Deantha Crockett is executive director of the Alaska Miners Association.