Ester Dome morning

Morning on Ester Dome. 

Alaska military leaders and Fairbanks area mayors had a meet-up in downtown Fairbanks.

Hundreds of soil samples from Ester Dome are being analyzed by a prospecting company. And researchers see links between Alaska’s lagging population growth and the oil economy.

Here are five things to know in Alaska politics.

Alaska Defense Forum hosts military and mayors

Greater Fairbanks is a military community and proud of it. Alaska’s defense industry produces about 58,000 jobs and is a primary driver for the Interior economy.

Mayors from Interior Alaska, along with military leaders, met this week for the Alaska Defense Forum in downtown Fairbanks.

Topics covered included the Alaska defense economy, as well as Arctic military strategy. Community support for Alaska’s service members and their families also was a focus of the forum.

Participants included leaders and service members from Interior military installations, as well as from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and the Coast Guard. The mayors of Fairbanks, North Pole, the Fairbanks North Star Borough and other communities took part.

Representatives from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the Kissinger and Kennan Institutes, and the Alaska congressional delegation made virtual appearances.

DHSS: Hackers did not steal consumer information

There is “no current evidence” to suggest hackers stole confidential health or other personal identification information of Alaskans in a cyberattack that disabled online DHSS services.

That is the reassuring information the Department of Health and Social Services delivered this week as the cybersecurity company FireEye continued to restore systems at the state’s largest department, with Vital Records back online.

“This was not a ‘one-and-done’ situation, but rather a sophisticated attack intended to be carried out undetected over a prolonged period. The attackers took steps to maintain that long-term access even after they were detected,” said DHSS Technology Officer Scott McCutcheon.

Ester Dome soil sampling is ‘well underway’

Millrock Resources is bullish about prospects in the Fairbanks Mining District. Its bull run may be paved in gold.

Millrock, partnering with Felix Gold, is undertaking soil sampling in the Ester Dome project area to determine mineral locations. “A major soil sampling program is well underway,” the company reported.

“To date, 2,000 soil samples have been collected across the claim holdings,” the company reported. The work is expected to finish in August.

The company uses historic mining records to identify potential mineral locations. Soil samples confirm if the resources are there.

“The goal is to get uniform, modern soil sample coverage across the claims. Once the soil data is merged with all historic data which has been compiled in a database, drill targeting will be done,” Millrock said.

“The exploration season is in full swing in Alaska,” Millrock President and CEO Gregory Beischer said in a company announcement. Beischer provided the following updates about work in the Fairbanks Mining District:

Millrock acquired an option to purchase a 100% interest in the Grant Mine – a former-producing gold mine on Ester Dome. Millrock assigned option rights to Felix Gold.

Permits were received for drilling at the Ester Dome project.

Major soil geochemical surveys are underway at the Treasure Creek project.

Felix Gold is funding exploration and paying the costs of acquiring claims in the Fairbanks district.

Millrock Resources of Canada identifies itself as a “premier project generator” in the mining industry, with interest and expertise in Alaska.

Alaska’s population and the fossil fuel economy

Pew Charitable Trusts released findings from an analysis of 10-year population trends across America and state-specific economic trends.

The research showed that Alaska and other oil-producing states “saw some of the sharpest changes in growth rates between the 2000s and 2010s.”

Oil production has been a long-term economic driver in Alaska. But Alaska production has been on a long-term decline. And that has had an impact on population, slowing growth with workers leaving for opportunities elsewhere.

According to Pew: “Population trends are tied to states’ economic fortunes and government finances.” When the jobs leave, so do the workers.

Herd immunity and Alaska’s vaccine rate

Alaska’s top political leaders are encouraging residents to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. Their impact is unclear, as the highly contagious Delta variant accelerates transmission.

Alaska trails the U.S. in vaccination rates, with most new cases of the virus are the Delta variant.

The Infectious Diseases Society of America projects that more than 80% of the U.S. population will need to be vaccinated to ensure herd immunity.

Just over half of the eligible Alaska population has received one dose of the vaccine; 45% are fully vaccinated.

Contact Linda F. Hersey at 907-459-7575 or follow her at