Natural Resource Development

conomists consider resource extraction to be a primary activity. Without raw materials, the secondary sector (manufacturing) would twiddle its thumbs in idle mills and factories, and without workers supporting those two, the tertiary sector (services) would pass the same dollars around among themselves until the bills wore out.

Alaska’s abundance of minerals, timber, energy, and other extractible outputs from land and water form the foundation upon which the rest of the state’s economic activity depends. Natural resource development is so essential that it extends outside the pages of this special section. “45 Years of TAPS” celebrates the monumental infrastructure that brings North Slope crude oil to the world, and “Into the West” reports on new infrastructure to access mining areas in Southcentral and Northwest Alaska.

Within the special section, guest authors Hillary Palmer and Ed Fogels explain how mapping is an ongoing effort in Alaska, essential to any resource development endeavors. Those could include new hydropower projects or picking through forests for niche timber products, topics both covered in this section.

For the mining industry, our annual overview covers current major projects in development, permitting, or operation. Also, “More Questions Than Answers” goes into detail about the Minerals Security Partnership, a new international agreement that ought to benefit Alaska, in theory. Guest author Rick Van Nieuwenhuyse, president and CEO of Contango ORE, further explains why mineral development, especially in the United States, is essential for a secure, green future. In partnership with Fort Knox mine owner Kinross Gold, Contango is developing the Manh Choh project in the Upper Tanana region in a way that respects the landowner, the Native Village of Tetlin. That respect, and the regulatory regime that reflects it, is why Van Nieuwenhuyse says Alaska is a better place to extract resources than other places in the world.