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Leave the gold in the ground

Near-insolvent mineral vultures, Millrock Resources and shell company Felix Gold Limited, are busy trying to sell the lie that they want to be out in the open with how they operate in the Fairbanks area.

Further peddling this farce was the point of Saturday afternoon’s meeting at Kunkel Park, but they weren’t prepared for the community’s reaction. When pressed by the crowd, Dave Larimer, Felix Gold’s bumbling point man, resorted to predictable evasive tactics, hollow answers, and threadbare responses of every vacuous shape and size. The only honesty in the entire presentation was unintentional: Millrock/Felix revealed the fact that they’re an arrangement of rank amateurs when they carelessly assumed they could charm their way into a strident Alaska community by touting their emphasis on local hiring practices and the laughable assertion that they’ve already accrued a “social license to operate” by the thin claim of working with a few compromised local individuals in their Treasure Creek operations.

Not surprisingly, there were notes of economic determinism in Millrock’s presentation. To paraphrase Larimer, if you don’t let us do this exploratory work, somebody else will. (Larimer conveniently left out the part where if they find what they’re looking for they will sell the prospect to the highest bidder). Here is what is truly implied by Larimer’s corporate brand of deterministic rationalization: Sooner or later, industry is going to find out if there are profitable quantities of gold in the places where we live and if there is then the gold must be extracted. If, in the process of extraction, our community is dispossessed of its right to exist as it wants to exist, it’s just too damn bad for all of us.

Economic determinism is the sort of poisonous thinking that pits neighbor against neighbor, man against nature, government against citizen, winner against loser. It implies that the destruction of people’s lives, and the land, air and water communities depend on, is an acceptable cost of doing business. Unfortunately, there are many proponents of development-at-any-cost in the state of Alaska. As a rule, they are always the people who stand to gain most by the destruction of the land. They can count themselves among the winning class. The winners always offer, as cold comfort to the losers, the same worn and cruel advice. “It’s a free country, if you don’t like it, sell your home and move away” or “It’s your own fault for being so stupid to build there” — echoes of the classic American refrain to the displaced — “relocate and find a new line of work.” But this is not neighborly language, this is not compassionate language. This is the language of the bully and the bastard.

For a community to exist, there must be limits placed on predatory economic systems — surely we can all agree that people must have somewhere safe to live and raise their young? In a time like this, we must ask, where are our leaders, where is our government? In a just society, in a sensible economy, an industrial mine in this location would not be a matter for debate. But we find that our leaders are absent, some perhaps even implicit in the planned assault. We are left to fend for ourselves and the fate of an entire community hangs in the balance.

Millrock and Felix have argued that having knowledge of the mineral contents of our creeks and hills is “intrinsically valuable to the community” and that what they are doing is “purely scientific work.” But the people who live here don’t care how much gold is in the ground around us because this is our home, and we won’t see it destroyed for any amount of profit.

Saturday’s message from the community to Millrock and Felix was clear: Leave the gold in the ground or face the hostility of a resolute and resourceful local population.

Tyler Selden is a wilderness trapper who lives in the Goldstream Valley with his family.

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