A Canadian mining company is pulling out of an exploration project near Tok. The move comes as the price of gold has fallen about 15 percent from unprecedented highs in recent years, and may signal a slowdown in the mining industry.
Break up will slow down this week as cold air returns to the Interior. National Weather Service meteorologist Scot Berg says a cold front is rapidly moving across the region.
The start of the tourist season in Interior Alaska is coming up, and Denali National Park will be ready, despite lingering snow cover.
Some people crave ice cream or fresh vegetables or pasta. Others prefer dried fish or caribou. As part of our series exploring culture in rural and urban Alaska, APRN’s Anne Hillman found out how strong links between food and culture are common throughout the state.
Paul Wilkins stands in his tiny kitchen in his East Anchorage home, chopping herbs to spread on his homemade breadsticks.
“It’s buffalo wing sauce with jalapeños and cilantro and mozzarella cheese,” Wilkins said.
He’s testing a new recipe to share with his friend for her birthday.
“Cooking is one way to make people happy, to make people enjoy things,” Wilkins said.
Food brings people together. He says cooking, and food, are also part of his identity.
“I guess I define myself by what I like to do and food is part of that because I like to cook different things and taste different things and eat different things,” Wilkins said.
It’s also part of his cultural identity. He cooks lasagna and manicotti because his Italian mother prepared it throughout his childhood. He’s learning more about southern foods from his father’s side of the family. But not everyone has that family connection.
“There’s tons of kids that grow up just eating at strip malls and McDonald’s and Red Robin,” Wilkins said. “They’re great restaurants but I’m sure a lot of that in some families, some of that home-cooked meal history is lost in a lot of ways. I would guess.”
That can happen even in areas of Alaska without restaurants.
“When I was a teenager, in high school, I was going away from my food. Like any other teenager going for the candy and the chips. All that,” Dorcas Nesoluk said.
Dorcas, from Nuiqsut, says she stopped eating whale and caribou, traditional Inupiaq foods, and eventually she started feeling less healthy. It was a mantra repeated by Inupiat of all ages – “if we eat too much food from the Outside instead of local native foods, we get sick.”
When Nesoluk had her baby, four years ago, she decided to go back to eating traditional foods.
“I give it to my daughter, my little three-year-old. I grew up with it so I’m letting her grow up with it. She loves it. She can’t get over it. That’s how we all are raised – eating off the land,” Dorcas said.
Nesoluk and others stressed that for the Inupiat, food is directly tied to culture. And like all cultures, it’s constantly evolving and being influenced by outside sources. Hazel Kunakanna says that people certainly don’t just eat raw maktak, they incorporate food traditions from outside of Alaska.
“You know, like my grandma, she used to like it fried with onions and stuff. And then some people like fry it and fry their maktak like a stir-fry with rice.” “And you put soy sauce on it?” “Yeah, you could put soy sauce on it,” Kunakanna said.
And just because she’s committed to eating and teaching about native foods, it doesn’t mean she’ll eat everything, like caribou head.
“My grandma used to always like eating tuk-tuk head. They cooked the brains with the tongue and you know you boil it. I never tried it before but most of my kids like it because my husband grew up with it.” “But you don’t do it?” “uh-uh! I don’t even.” laughter “How come?” “I grew up with my grandma, with all my Inupiaq food, but me, I just don’t eat it,” Kunakanna said.
April Philip, a student at Ilisagvik College in Barrow, says she would love to eat more of her native foods from Bethel. Her Yupik family sends her dried fish and akutaq, but she often only has time to microwave a Hot Pocket and get to class. And though eating her native foods ties her to her family, it’s not the same.
“My Yupik family for instance, they’re not around. And you don’t hear the normal words you would hear at the dinner table. But I do feel, I do feel like closer to home,” Philip said.
Back at Wilkins’ home, he pulls the breadsticks out of the oven and turns on his friend’s favorite music. Just like Philips and others around Alaska, he feels the same relationship between culture and food.
“The food that people eat partially defines the way their culture has evolved over millennia, really,” Wilkins said.
He says that it’s already helped define the culture for many Alaska Natives and only time will tell how it will define Alaska’s urban areas.
It’s a chilly spring in the Anchorage area. National Weather Service Meteorologist Chris Burling says temperatures in recent days have been just a few degrees below normal, but that comes after a winter and early spring with lower temperatures than usual.
“We’ve really been colder than normal here throughout most of the winter,” Burling said. “The only months we were actually above normal a little bit temperature-wise was January and February, I believe.”
“We’ve been below normal since March and dating back into the fall and last summer even.”
The National Weather Service shows Anchorage area temperatures in October were 1.6 degrees below normal. During November and December, average temperatures were 4.5 degrees below normal, and March and April temperatures were 7 degrees below the statistical norm.
Burling says a low pressure system over mainland Alaska will hold for several more days.
“It does look at least through the short term here, at least through next week, we are going to be remaining in this colder pattern,” Burling said.
Burling says the forecast for Southcentral Alaska shows temperatures in the 40s and 50s,with a chance of late-season snow and temperatures in the high 20s or low 30s Friday or Saturday.
A man’s body was discovered in a van that was burning in the parking lot of a mid-town Anchorage restaurant Thursday night.
Karl Leroy Cox. Junior, 28, was reportedly living in the van. The van was not street legal. The investigation continues.
A child visiting a sled dog lot in Big Lake is hospitalized after a dog got loose and attacked her. The lot was Jake Berkowitz’s but there were other dogs boarding there as well.
Two-year-old Elin Shuck was with her mother tending to their dogs when another dog reportedly came after the child. Elin is reported in stable condition with serious injuries.
There was a fatality Friday on the Cat-train bringing supplies for the Susitna Dam studies at Stephan Lake Lodge.
A D-6 bulldozer fell through the ice and the driver died in the accident. He is identified as Donald Kiehl, 72, of North Pole. Kiehl was retrieved from the lake and individuals on scene attempted CPR on Kiehl but he was unable to be resuscitated.
Wayne Dyok of the Alaska Energy Authority, says the decisions about transportation were up to the contractor, Alaska Diversified Services.
“You have a very capable crew here, and bottom line here is it’s their expertise, and I believe they felt it was safe to do so,” Dyok said. ”So, we need to take a step back here, look at the investigation, let that unfold and then go from there.”
State Troopers got in by helicopter. Investigation continues.
The eleven page document frequently mentions the Arctic as a region free of conflict and the country’s desire to keep it that way.
The plan lays out three arcing “lines of interest” – to advance U.S. security, pursue responsible Arctic stewardship and to strengthen international cooperation.
Luke Coffey, a fellow at the D.C. based Heritage Foundation, called the strategy welcome news, albeit a bit late.
He cautioned the strategy is very forward looking; it lays out guidelines for future oil and gas exploration and shipping lines.
He said only46 vessels traversed the Northern Sea Route last year.
“Compare that to the 20,000 ships that traveled through the Gulf of Aden off the Horn of Africa,” he said Friday afternoon. “So we are still a long before we start seeing the maritime volume that we’re seeing in some of the warmer climates around the world.”
The strategy says the United States needs to accede to the United Nations Law of the Sea Treaty; something Coffey disputes. He said the country can operate in the Arctic, alongside other sovereign Arctic nations, without signing on to the international agreement.
The U.S. is the only Arctic nation that has not agreed to the treaty.
While the strategy explicitly says security is the number one priority, much of the text focuses on future energy exploration.
Michael LeVine, a lawyer with Oceana in Juneau,said both this administration and the previous one led by President George W. Bush have prioritized oil exploration over the environment.
And while he welcomed commitments to combat climate change, LeVine said it’s tough to balance those promises with promises to continue oil drilling.
“We hope, that moving forward, this administration will stick to its commitment of getting good science and to be prepared before industrial activities are allowed,” he said.
That’s a dig at Shell, which was allowed to proceed with some of its drilling plans despite not having working spill prevention measures.
The strategy says the federal government will cooperate with the state and consult with tribes – which is already policy.
“If they don’t I’m going to be raising a little bit of noise here,” said former North Slope Borough Mayor Edward Itta.
Itta, now a member of U.S. Arctic Research Commission, said the new guidelines are a good first start, but it’s just that. There still needs to be concrete plans developed.
“I’m still somewhat skeptical – until the funding is going to accompany whatever priorities or programs are identified,” he said.
Government officials will travel to Alaska this summer to hold listening sessions and to ask for input on the new policies.
One policy may get lots of attention in the state: Without listing any country in particular, the strategy says the United States should work with other non-Arctic countries that show an interest in the region.
No doubt those countries will have an interest in the vast resource supply.
The Pribilof Islands of St. Paul and St. George are just 45 miles apart, but getting between them can be challenging because of limited flight service, and the area’s notoriously foggy weather. This summer, a regional community development group is hoping to solve that problem by contracting a ferry to run between the islands. But, finding a suitable vessel has proved challenging.
The oldest school in the Copper River School District is officially closing down. The Copper River School Board voted unanimously this week to shutdown the Copper Center School due to low enrollment. The District is seeking approval from the Alaska Department of Education to move forward with its closure plan.
Two Anchorage lawmakers stood outside Barnes & Noble in Midtown Anchorage today, gathering signatures for the referendum to repeal Gov. Sean Parnell’s oil tax overhaul. The bill narrowly passed at the end of this year’s legislative session. It’s expected to lower taxes on oil companies by hundreds of millions of dollars each year.
…Thank you…Hollis, I’ll talk to you about that resolution, OK? Yeah, OK?”
French is optimistic the referendum will make it on the ballot and pass. He says Alaskans should be able to decide whether the bill is a good idea.
“I believe they’ll say lets go back to the drawing board. And pass a bill that stimulates development in new fields, stimulates heavy oil development but doesn’t give away the farm on the legacy fields. That’s the basic idea, we think there’s a smarter way to do oil tax reform,” French said.
The referendum effort needs 30,000 signatures by July 13. They have about 8,000 so far.
Students, staff, coaches, politicians and other onlookers gathered at the construction site for the “topping out” ceremony at the Alaska Airlines Center at the University of Alaska Anchorage on Friday. Now, the final piece of steel for the structure has been hoisted into place.
For months, those driving though the U-Med district in Anchorage have probably noticed the arena taking shape. Now, another stage of the construction is complete.
Before the ceremony, workers installed the final piece to make sure everything fit correctly, but before the “topping out” became official, a piece of ironworker tradition needed to take place.
“We always elect one piece, we pull it back down so we can sign it and put it back up,” Mark Palmatier, senior project manager with Cornerstone Construction, said. ”It’s just more of a tradition than anything else.”
He says that even though the basic building structure is complete, there is still a lot left to do. Things ranging from basic infrastructure, like lighting, plumbing, and electrical work, to finishing touches like the seating and scoreboards.
The construction is budgeted to cost around $86 million. So far, about $35 million worth of it is done.
For those who pass by the building site, the next major exterior construction process will be installing a special zinc siding, which Palmatier says Alaska hasn’t seen before.
“It’s kind of silver, it’s kind of like an unfinished aircraft or something. That’s what it’s gonna look like. Kind of like an unfinished aircraft, it’s gonna look really nice. And if it got scratches, it kind of heals itself over time, so it’s kind of a neat siding to put up. It’s extremely durable, and it’s gonna look really good,” he said.
Palmatier says despite all the work left to do, he is still anticipating an on-time opening in August 2014.
The new arena will house at least some of the facilities for all of UAA’s sports. The hockey team will continue to play games at the Sullivan Arena and practice at the Wells Fargo Sports Complex, but most of their off-ice training facilities will be in the new sports center.
This week, we’re heading to Arctic Village, on the edge of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Margorie Gemmill is Tribal Administrator for the Arctic Village Council.
In June, the University of Alaska Fairbanks will discontinue its recycling program. It’s a cost cutting measure, but it also comes in response to what the University sees as a lack of action by the Fairbanks North Star Borough.
For years, borough residents have deposited their recyclables in a handful of different colored dumpsters in one of UAF’s parking lots.
Sharon Alden had just finished emptying a box full of bottles into one of those dumpsters when a truck came by to collect the glass.
“I don’t always bring my recycling here.,” she says. “I actually try to take it other places, because I had understood last year that the university does pay, so I try to spread it around and take the paper and the aluminum to the rescue mission.”
The recycling program was set up exclusively for the University in 2010, but today, roughly 90 percent of what UAF collects in paper, plastic, aluminum and glass comes from Borough residents. It’s all waste Chancellor Brian Rogers says the University isn’t responsible for.
“We’ve told the Borough for a year that this is a problem for us to continue to provide a community service that is part of the Borough’s mandate and not the University’s,” says Rogers.
Last month, he sent a letter to faculty and staff to say that the University faces a 4 to 5 percent budget shortfall next year. This week, Rogers also sent a letter to Borough Mayor Luke Hopkins to explain that the University plans to discontinue its recycling program as of June first.
“Certainly, the budget environment we’re going into makes it much harder for us to carry the cost of the Borough,” says Rogers.
The University has offered several alternatives for the Borough to consider, but Chancellor Rogers says he hasn’t seen much action.
“I think the bottom line is we have shown in proof of concept that the Fairbanks residents really want recycling and I hope the borough will respond to that,” he says.
Borough Mayor Luke Hopkins says he knows borough residents support a recycling program, but he says it’s been hindered by a slow moving funding process.
“The funding needs to be appropriated for the borough to do it,” says Hopkins.
He says the wheels are already in motion to set up an area for residents to deposit their recyclables just across the street from where the University’s dumpsters sit overflowing with cardboard and plastic bottles.
“Last September I started an action to get a wetlands permit to expand the transfer site right next to the university,” he explains. “So, we just recently received that permit, now we can expand that site, but that will take the summer to build, so we’ll probably be ready with that next year.”
The Assembly is currently grappling with next year’s budget. During public hearing last week, nearly half the testimony came from residents who do not support a proposed $46,000 cut to Recycling Commission funding.
Hopkins says he’s confident that money will be restored. He also plans to add an amendment to the budget that would defray the cost and allow the University program to continue.
“Yeah, I’m gonna ask the assembly to consider an amendment that would add a line item for that to the budget,” says Hopkins.
As for Sharon Alden, she says with the University’s program in question, she’s looking for other alternatives.
“Coming here makes me want to work on not creating as much trash or even as much recyclables,” she says. “I don’t think we have too many other choices. I mean I don’t like throwing things away.”
The Bristol Bay Native Corporation and the mineral exploration company Millrock Resources made an agreement to explore for gold, copper, and molybdenum prospects on BBNC land near the Chigniks.
The prospect of copper and gold mining in Bristol Bay is controversial, and the Bristol Bay Native Corporation has been officially against the Pebble mine since 2009. But that doesn’t rule out other development.
“BBNC is opposed to the Pebble prospect. Upon its merits, it is a project we don’t support,” said L. Tiel Smith, BBNC Vice President of Land and Regional Operations. “But there are other resources on and near BBNC land that we want to continue to explore and assess to see if we can develop them.”
According to the corporation’s website, BBNC owns more than three million of the roughly 40 million acres in Bristol Bay, making it the largest private landowner in the region.
“Our interest is to further assess our lands. In this particular case, Millrock is helping us better understand the geology to give us an indication of what resource is there,” said Smith. “Then we’ll be able to better determine what our next steps are for further exploration or potential development.”
BBNC’s agreement with Millrock allows for exploration with an option to lease at three sites around the Chigniks, known as Kawisgag, Mallard Duck Bay, and Bee Creek. The lands are split estate; BBNC owns the subsurface rights, but Millrock will need separate agreements with local village corporations for surface rights.
Some exploration around the Chigniks was undertaken in the 1970′s, and again in 2005-06, with results Millrock sees as encouraging. The company has expressed their enthusiasm at the large, lightly-explored area they characterize as “highly prospective.”
Still, the odds of discovering a copper and/or gold deposit that could be mined for profit “aren’t very good,” said Millrock Resources President and CEO Gregory Beischer. “The reality for us exploration geologists is that somewhere near one-in-a-thousand to one-in-ten thousand prospects that are explored actually become a mine. But the payoff’s big if we actually succeed.”
Formed in 2007, Millrock Resources, Inc., is a relatively new junior exploration company. Chief Operating Officer Sarah Whicker recently told Alaska Business Monthly that the company is looking in Alaska “for those massive, world-class deposits that aren’t as easy to find elsewhere in the world right now.”
Millrock’s model is to stake claims with potential, then find investors to cover exploration costs in option-to-joint-venture agreements. Those investors are typically larger mining companies with deeper pockets. In a similar fashion, Northern Dynasty attracted mining giant Anglo American to the Pebble deposit and established the Pebble Partnership.
Millrock has several other projects in Alaska, including the Humble project roughly 50 miles northeast of Dillingham, and Audn north of Levelock.
CEO Greg Beisher has past experience with the Bristol Bay Native Corporation; he spent seven years at a BBNC subsidiary working on oil, gas and mineral resource development.
And the company’s Chief Exploration Officer, geologist Philip St. George, knows a thing or two about mineral deposits in Bristol Bay; he’s credited with the discovery of the Pebble deposit north of Iliamna back in the late 1980′s.
Living in the wild is one of Alaska’s primary attractions, but just how wild do you want it? Many hunt and fish. Some go for extreme sports, or climb rocks and ice, and some guide others in wilderness adventure. But some choose seasonal hard work in the wild, leaving them time for other explorations. Explorations they will be sharing on the next Talk of Alaska.
HOST: Steve Heimel
- Christine Byl, trail worker, author, “Dirt Work: An Education in the Woods”
- Callers Statewide
- Post your comment before, during or after the live broadcast (comments may be read on air).
- Send e-mail to talk [at] alaskapublic [dot] org (comments may be read on air)
- Call 550-8422 in Anchorage or 1-800-478-8255 if you’re outside Anchorage during the live broadcast
LIVE Broadcast: Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 10:00 a.m. on APRN stations statewide.
Alaska ACLU head Jeff Mittman is leaving the state for another post with the organization.
An ACLU press release does not disclose what his new job will be, but says that an interim Executive Director will serve while a national search goes on.
ACLU Alaska President Donna Goldsmith praised Mittman for raising the profile of the organization during his five years of service and expressed confidence that Joshua Decker would do a good job continuing to protect the constitutional rights of Alaskans.
More lawsuits have been filed by women against former state probation officer James R. Stanton, already convicted of charges related to allegations of sexually preying on his clients.
The Anchorage Daily News reports that 11 women are suing Stanton and the state, contending that something should have been done.
Stanton worked on alcohol cases and the lawsuits contend that he was using his position of power to gain sexual favors long before his plea deal in 2010.
The women’s attorneys are asking the court to disclose Stanton’s personnel records. He served 3 and a half months and is currently out on probation himself.
When you’re a teenager, looks matter. But one girl in Sitka decided that those concerns were trivial, and shaved her head for a cause much bigger than herself. By choosing to go bald, she was supporting childhood cancer research across the U.S.
“My name is Celia Lubin. I’m 15-years-old and I go to Sitka High School.”
Like a lot of teenagers, she has a rebellious streak.
“My hair is purply, browny, blondy and its braids, and yeah,” Celia said.
She does a bunch of activities, like swimming, soccer, drama & debate, concert band, and she has her own radio show. But she’s doing something that very few teenage girls would do.
“I am shaving my head for St. Baldrick’s,” Celia said.
Over the past decade, St. Baldrick’s Day has become a major fundraising event for pediatric cancer research. It all began in 1999 when a group of insurance executives in Manhattan shaved their heads in solidarity with young cancer patients.
At the Sitka event, Celia is the only teenage girl in line to go bald. She says cancer affects everybody’s lives.
“Probably everyone knows someone who’s had cancer,” she said. “It’s kind of devastating to think about, but it’s so common that everyone knows someone.”
Celia heard about St. Baldrick’s from a family friend and the main organizer of the event, David Vastola. He’s a doctor at SEARHC and has treated kids with cancer. He says because pediatric cancer is less common than adult cancer, it receives much less funding for research. Celia wants to give these sick children her support in a tangible way.
“People who do chemo and lose their hair, it can be kind of isolating I think, so showing them support, not only with money and ‘hey I’m raising awareness for this cause,’ but, I’m going to stand there with you,” Celia said.
At the St. Baldrick’s event at the Sitka Elks Lodge, men and boys are sitting in barber chairs on stage, while local hair stylists shave their heads. A little boy is walking around collecting pledges and stuffing them into an envelope. There are about 100 people sitting at the tables, eating dinner and watching the action.
Lubin’s mom, Lisa Busch, says she was skeptical about her daughter’s decision at first.
“I thought, really?? Can we pay you to not shave your head?,” Lisa said.
“I’m feeling pretty good about it. I’m feeling really excited for Celia. Just like proud of her for doing this. Wondering what she’s going to look like bald,” Lisa said, laughing.
“They didn’t really have a lot of say. If they did object, I was just like, ‘Hey, I’m not doing drugs. I’m raising money for cancer,’” Celia said.
At the Elk’s Lodge, the announcer introduces Celia to the crowd.
“Who, at 15 years old, would have shaved their head? This is a very brave young lady…”
“I’m a little bit nervous but I’m really excited,” Celia said.
Celia’s hair is wavy and hangs past her shoulders. It’s brown with fresh dark purple streaks running randomly through it. The hair stylist who’s going to cut Celia’s hair helps the teen get comfortable.
Casey: “What’s your name?”
Casey: “I’m Casey. I shaved my head last year. It’s awesome. You’re gonna love it. Ready?”
Casey: “Alright, here it goes.”
Because Celia recently dyed her hair, her scalp has some purple spots on it.
“Yeah. i figured that would happen,” Celia said.
After Celia has her head completely shaved, she walks over to a table where her parents and friends are sitting.
“It looks great. It looks so good. I’m proud of her. She has a nice shaped head. I’m a lucky papa,” they said.
“It feels so good. I’ve never felt anything like this before,” Celia said.
Celia raised nearly $3,000 in pledges for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. Since 2004, the national organization has contributed more than $100 million to fight pediatric cancers.
Celia does not see her participation as just a stunt.
“I know that I had a cancer free childhood and it was really great. I just think it would be really scary for kids my age and younger to have to go through something life-threatening illness like cancer, and I want to be able to help a little bit,” Celia said.
And she’s not worried about her lost locks. She says it’s just hair and it’ll grow back.