Alaska DEC nominee misrepresents Alaska's standing on international mining survey

Any chance he gets, Jason Brune is telling legislators that Alaska has a terrible track record in dealing with mining companies on permits and he cites an annual survey by the Fraser Institute as evidence.

“Currently Alaska  ranks behind the Congo  on predictability  of our permitting regime by the Fraser  Institute,” Brune said at a Jan. 25 confirmation hearing before the Senate Resources Committee. “That is not a place where we want to be. We have the highest environmental standards in the world, and we should, but the ground rules must not be constantly changing.”

Brune, who is awaiting confirmation as commissioner of Department of Environmental Conservation, repeated his false Congo claim at an April 1 confirmation hearing before the House Resources Committee when Juneau Rep. Sara Hannan asked what he was getting at.

“I said that but this was not a statement I pulled out of the air, it's an annual study that’s done by the Fraser Institute about the geology and the predictability of permitting regimes for all mining regimes all around the world,” he said.

He said Alaska has a high rank for geology on the survey, but “for predictability of our permitting regime, they ranked us, and these are mining executives from around the world that work in different jurisdictions, they ranked us behind the Congo on predictability of the permitting regime.”

Except they didn’t.

Brune, who was a Pebble Mine advocate in one of his former jobs, did not given an accurate portrayal to legislators about Alaska’s standing on the Fraser survey.

Check for yourself and you’ll see that the gloom-and-doom assessment is entirely wrong.

The 2018 survey ranks Alaska as the fifth most attractive place in the world based on the “investment attractiveness index” for mining companies. Alaska was 10th in 2017. This ranking includes not only mineral potential, but it “measures the effects of government policy on attitudes toward exploration investment,” according to the right-wing institute.

Alaska is ahead of Chile, Utah, Arizona, Yukon and the Northwest Territories on its Top 10. Nevada, at No. 1, is the only U.S. jurisdiction ahead of Alaska.

The Fraser report includes numerous comments about Alaska that contradict Brune’s vision of Alaska as permit Purgatory.

“Contacted a state regulator regarding a permit application and they worked collaboratively throughout the application process to ensure that it was completed in a timely manner,” one mining official is quoted as saying.

“Alaska continues to catalog and provide useful geologic information about the region,” another said.

“In the United States, Alaska is the jurisdiction with the highest percentage of respondents (60 percent) who indicated that they were able to attain their necessary permits in two months or less. Compared to Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and Wyoming, the other US states included in the analysis, Alaska also performed best for providing necessary permits in six months or less,” the Fraser survey said.

Regarding the timeliness for permit approval, Alaska was the top jurisdiction in the United States, “67 percent of respondents indicated that established timelines were met 80 to 100 percent of the time.”

In terms of transparency, “In this category, Alaska was the top performer in the United States, with no respondents indicating that the level of transparency was deterring investment.”

Every company that answered the survey expressed "reported that they were either highly confident or confident that they would receive the necessary exploration permits.”

On page 63, there is a ranking of places around the world with survey results on “uncertainty concerning environmental regulations,” on which Alaska trails the Congo. In that category, there are 37 jurisdictions ranked lower than Alaska, including Nunavut, Montana, Brazil, Colorado, British Columbia, New Zealand and Washington.

On page 68, Alaska is just behind the Congo on “uncertainty concerning protected areas. Alaska is just ahead of Wyoming, Arizona, Utah and about 50 other jurisdictions. The Congo numbers are about the same as those for Nevada, New Mexico and Idaho.

No one who reads this entire report can honestly conclude that “Alaska  ranks behind the Congo  on predictability  of our permitting regime.”

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