The Honorable Don Young
U.S. House of Representatives
2314 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
July 17, 2013
Dear Congressman Young,
The Greater Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce emphatically supports HR 587: The Niblack and Bokan Mountain Mining Area Roads Authorization Act, which would establish a road corridor connecting both the Niblack Mine and the Bokan Mountain rare earth mine to the existing road system on Prince of Wales Island in southern Southeast Alaska.
The development of these two mines represents an absolute convergence of local and national, economic and strategic interests. Rare Earths, with their highly magnetic properties, are the limiting resource in the production of advanced, digital, military, and clean energy technologies. 99% of currently available rare earths come from China. Bokan Mountain is the largest heavy rare earth deposit in the United States, with a three year prospective timeline, and with a globally anomalous skew toward three critically strategic, high-demand elements: Dysprosium, Terbium and Yttrium, in the deposit’s profile.
The mines are equally critical to our local economies: The collapse of the Southeast timber industry from 1997 has left our economies reeling, with a shortage of year-round family wage jobs on which to found a year round economy, and especially, good blue collar jobs to insure that the full diversity of our workforce can participate in America’s promise of prosperity. Bokan Mountain alone will create 170 jobs directly, and 25 catering contractors. Applying standard multipliers for economic impact, indirect job creation will be significantly higher.
While our region is rich in natural resources, prosperity in our communities is systematically hamstrung by restricted access to those resources. Allowing access to these mines through HR 587 will not only expedite the production phase of the mines, and help attract the investments crucial to financing the mines’ costly final phases, but will also insure that the mines are fully integrated into the economic infrastructure of our communities, allowing our workers and service industries to fully benefit from the emerging opportunities these mines offer.
We strongly encourage your support of HR 587. We also advocate an amendment to the bill, to include within the corridor access for hydroelectric power and broadband. We project that the strength of these mines will fund infrastructure that will open up new opportunity in the region for years to come.
Keith Smith, Executive Director
Greater Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce
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