A message from the Executive Director:
A couple of weeks ago, we had the pleasure of hosting the Executive Directors of mining associations from western states for a fantastic visit to Alaska.
This Western States Mining Coordinating Council consists of the mining associations of Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming, as well as the American Exploration & Mining Association, National Mining Association, Rocky Mountain Coal Institute, and Women’s Mining Coalition. Our group meets annually for a meeting of information sharing, advocacy, collaboration, and touring of mines specific to a region, and the states take turns hosting.
The visit began with a trip down the Turnagain Arm to take our visitors along the Seward Highway, with an outing at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. Although it was pouring, the animals didn’t disappoint as bear, moose, elk, caribou, and others came right up to the fence to pose for the several talented photographers in the group. We then made a brief stop at the Girdwood Brewery (it’s important to support small businesses, you know) before boarding the tram for a visit to Seven Glaciers.
With the tourism and showing off Alaska complete, we met the next morning to convene our business meeting. This is by far one of my favorite meetings of the year – the group creates an agenda varying from information sharing on critical federal issues, ideas on how to best serve our memberships, collaboration on social media, polling and other communications, and much more.
The final day, our visitors got the real deal in Alaska mining experience. Our plan was fly to Chicken to visit the Fortymile Mining District. However, we sat in Anchorage on weather delay for a few hours (See? This is as Alaskan as it gets) before we were finally able to take off for the alternate destination of Tok. Arriving in Tok, our friend Spike Jorgensen greeted us and boarded us on a 14-passenger van and headed down the highway for a two-hour drive to Chicken during which he educated our group on many pieces of Alaska history.
Arriving in Chicken, the group sat down with Dick Hammond and Bronk Jorgensen, Fortymile Mining District Board members, to learn about the unique aspects of the District and having a Wild and Scenic River Corridor designated right atop the mining operations. Following the meeting, the group drove out to the Race family operation, touring the grounds and learning about the placer mining so unique and special to Alaska. Tanya Race treated them to a lunch akin to nothing I’ve ever seen in remote Alaska – truly gourmet. Finally, we toured a site that BLM performed a demonstration project to learn about the agency/miner relationships in the District.
After returning to Chicken, we said goodbye to our visitors as they headed back for their plane in Tok, and Alicia, Jennifer and I stayed in Chicken to spend more time with the miners and catch up on the issues and field season reports.
I honestly don’t think I could have wiped the smiles off the faces of our visitors. Since returning to the office, I have received multiple messages from our visitors along the lines of “best trip I’ve ever been on professionally or personally” to “best Western States meeting in my 20 years” and more. We were so proud to be able to show the nationwide mining representatives how special our diverse industry is, and I have many people to thank for it. Spike, Bronk, and Erica Jorgensen created, followed through, and improvised on logistics that were not at all seamless, but appeared that way to our visitors because of their efforts.
Dean, Chris, Dakota, and Tanya Race were the amazing hosts of an active operation and a welcoming table which blew the visitors away.
And finally, because you know all I did was show up and talk, Alicia and Jennifer did the careful and thorough planning to ensure the success of this visit. Between the Alaskans that made this a reality, and the associations who traveled up here, this spotlight on Alaska’s miners was one for the books and I couldn’t be happier. THANK YOU!