At the end of November, hundreds of industry representatives gathered for the 40th Annual Alaska Resources Conference in Anchorage, Alaska, USA. With a strong focus on Alaska’s economy, resource development and industry, the event provided an excellent update of the economic development in the U.S. Arctic.
The Arctic Economic Council and its work were amongst the topics highlighted at the 2019 Alaska Resources Conference. On the second day of the conference AEC Director Anu Fredrikson held a keynote speech focusing on business development across the Arctic and the potential future developments. Starting from a global perspective, Ms. Fredrikson underlined the need for Arctic natural resources as the global population grows, becomes wealthier and as the development of digitization increases. Simultaneously, due to climate change the Arctic is increasingly at the center of attention. Therefore there is a need for balanced information regarding the development of the Arctic and of its businesses.
Ms. Fredrikson also focused on potential emerging stakeholders with growing interest in the Arctic. The European Union (EU) with three of its members states in the Arctic is expected to start working on an Arctic policy. Representing the world’s largest market, EU decisions and regulations will have an impact on Arctic businesses in Europe and thus potentially also to their business partners. These developments highlight the growing need for a joint voice of the Arctic business community, a role the AEC works to fulfill.
Representing NANA Regional Corporation, an AEC Arctic Partner from Alaska, Lance Miller (Ph.D.) spoke of the changes taking place in Arctic business landscape. In his speech titled “Will the snowshoe hare always change color?” Mr. Miller focused on the competing agendas facing the Arctic businesses, namely that of environmental protection and industrial development. Moving towards green economy, mining will be an essential part of the development as mineral use will continue to grow.
Offering examples of how mining benefits Alaska, Mr. Miller highlighted that the Red Dog mine alone provides over 900 shareholder jobs, over 74 % of Alaska’s mineral exports in the recent years, and 4,7 % of global zinc mine production. With the changes facing the Arctic mining, Mr. Miller called for more focus on sustainability and transparency as elements of social purpose. As a poster child, the Arctic has an opportunity to serve for sustainability cause. The region’s projects should continue to be developed with Arctic values.