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A message from the Executive Director:

Dear Members,

I want to take this opportunity to provide you with an important update on issues pertaining to mining rights and their impact on Alaska’s miners.

Certainly for much longer, but in significant quantity over the last year, miners have encountered problems within the State’s mining rights laws and the Department of Natural Resources’ oversight of them. The AMA Statewide office received a number of inquiries relating to notices of abandonment, conflict in claims conversation, qualified entities to hold claims, and much more. I and many of our members spent long hours reviewing the many issues, collaborating with DNR personnel on potential resolutions, submitting comments within two separate requests for scoping comments on potential regulatory changes, and other actions.

In late January, Governor Bill Walker introduced in the Legislature a bill to attempt to resolve some of the issues. Senate Bill 166, and its house companion 317, is titled “An Act amending requirements for qualifications to acquire or hold mining rights; amending rental rates for mining locations and leases; repealing annual labor requirements for mining locations; providing for waiver of a cure penalty for abandonment because of failure to properly record a statement of labor; and providing for an effective date.”

This is where I must stop and explicitly say that while AMA appreciates the Administration’s attempt to resolve some of the outstanding issues associated with mining rights, we do not support a repeal of work requirements for mining claims. Not only does the bill not fully solve the many problems we have with mining rights, but in our opinion, repeal of the labor requirement creates a host of new issues. It also creates inconsistencies with federal mining law and does not honor the provisions in which the mining claims system are based upon. I have received a number of inquiries from our members expression frustration with AMA on the premise that we have supported the Legislation, so please be clear that we do not.

However, I mentioned above that we do appreciate the Administration’s attempt at conflict resolution and I’d like to expand on that. While the introduction of the provisions in SB166 and HB317 caught us by surprise, DNR has made the effort to discuss the issue with us extensively and made a commitment that they will not advance or urge legislation without our support. To take it one step further they asked for proposals that do make a difference and resolve the issues, and I respect and appreciate this communication from DNR.

Members of AMA’s State Oversight subcommittee on mining rights includes members of our standing committee with extensive expertise in these issues, mining attorneys, members of our Interior branches, and the Fortymile Mining District. I am deeply grateful for the time, talent, and treasure this group has committed to far to do our part in bringing an industry-approved resolution to DNR for consideration moving forward.

Please do not hesitate to contact me directly with questions, concerns, and suggestions. I will be sure to keep not only our membership, but the entire industry informed on this important issue and our efforts to resolve mining rights issues. A resolution to these complex issues is work in progress with many parts and pieces, and we will keep at it until we find and agree upon the right solution for Alaska’s miners.

Thank you,

Deantha Crockett Executive Director