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A neutral color between green and black?

A neutral color between green and black?

There were two remarkable occurrences at the Baranof hotel in Juneau recently. First, 38 gold and stock analysts were invited, and 37 showed up, at the Echo Bay Mines' dinner. Second, Governor Walter J. Hickel welcomed mineral development with open arms - but watchful eyes. Does it portend an enlightened and balanced role-model for other regions in North America and the world?

Many in mining know that, as U.S. Interior Secretary over 20 years ago, Hickel was thrust into the midst of the fledgling environmental arena when the oil spill occurred at Santa Barbara, Calif. Ironically, a few days before his confirmation hearings as Interior Secretary he had been characterized as insensitive to the environment. But after shutting down all offshore drilling, writing, and implementing strong offshore regulations he could not be accused of insensitivity.

He characterizes his views as "bigger than the environmental movement," and indicated that they were reinforced during his participation in the United Nations' 1972 environmental conference. He feels that environmental challenges can only be addressed in a global context. Moreover, "the true environmentalist is the global thinker ... caring about all needs - both those of nature and of man." He went on to say that, "the color of the environment is not just green. A man who is cold and hungry is in an ugly environment. Anyone who sides with only half the debate - development or preservation - is the enemy of the environment, delaying necessary solutions."

"The press of population worldwide means that the earth's temperate zone will be needed for man's living space." He went on saying, "in the future the world's resources will mainly come from the oceans, Arctic, and space. For those of us who live in and love this great North Country, we can rejoice that these riches are being discovered at a time when mankind has become sensitive to environmental values. The challenge before us is a challenge to our ingenuity. Arctic development must take place so that the world points to us as a model of enlightenment and recent technological advancement."

He went on to tell the analysts that Alaska, "is probably unique in the world in being an |owner-state.' It has a democratic free-enterprise system, but the government owns virtually all the resources. Fortunately Native Alaskans are gaining fee simple ownership of some 44 million acres, both the surface and mineral estates. Beyond that (Eskimos, Indians, and Aleuts), less than 33 1/3% of our state is owned by private individuals. A total of over 100 million acres is owned by Alaska's citizenry. As both Interior Secretary and governor I have been responsible at one time or another for over 99% of our 365 million acres." Moreover, because of the terms of Alaska's Statehood Act, the subsurface riches of the lands cannot be sold without title reverting to the federal government.

As an owner-state the government has the obligations of ownership. He said, "we cannot just regulate - government must initiate, innovate, and advocate." Hickel said, "I was part of the battle for our land entitlement when we fought for statehood in the 1950s; as governor I acted. We set the attitude and atmosphere to encourage the oil industry to drill at Prudhoe Bay. I predicted that there were 40 billion bbl of recoverable oil on the North Slope and was ridiculed on Wall Street. He was vindicated as BP Exploration recently estimated a total of 37 billion bbl in Prudhoe and adjoining areas.

"What about minerals? I subscribe to the Russian legend that after God toured the world, spreading riches throughout the continents, that he tired when he reached Siberia and emptied his bag. This is more real than imagined. Alaska has bonanza-sized deposits that dwarf many other mineralized areas around the world. We are sitting at the foot of a mountain that no one (in the 19th Century) thought was a whole mountain of gold." Juneau is a small, but proud capitol city built on the tailings of a pioneer mine. He said, "yes, Juneau and much of Alaska was built by miners..

"Yes, there is still controversy. But in my view, the issue of substance has been addressed and the majority of Alaskans are with you (mine development). There is one proviso - that any developer who comes to Alaska and disregards the beauty of our land, the purity of our water, the cleanliness of our air, the health of our wonderful wildlife - will find Alaskans are tough adversaries. Man needs work, man needs resources and the many products of those resources. And Alaskans are determined that our oil, mining, timber, and fishery industries will be a beacon to the 21st Century on how to tap those resources wisely.

"Mining is welcome."

PHOTO : Walter J. Hickel has had a unique perspective as a U.S. presidential cabinet-member and current governor of Alaska.
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Title Annotation:environmental concerns over effects of oil and mineral exploitation and Alaska's economic policy
Publication:E&MJ - Engineering & Mining Journal
Date:Nov 1, 1991
Words:811
Previous Article:Is Alaska poised for a mining boom?
Next Article:Waste disposal: status of the mine-waste task force of the Western Governors' Association.
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