Biden set to deny approval for mining company's road through Alaskan wilderness

The Biden administration will deny federal approval to a metallurgical mining company’s proposed industrial road through parts of northwestern Alaska, two sources familiar with the process confirmed to The Hill.

One of the sources, who asked to speak on background, confirmed that the official statement of “no action” from the Interior Department could come as soon as Wednesday.

The proposed project, the Ambler Access Project, would span more than 200 miles, including federally-owned land, meaning it requires the Interior Department’s signoff.

The road would be used exclusively by Ambler Metals to access the site of large copper deposits.

The outgoing Trump Interior Department approved the project in late 2020, but shortly after taking office, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland ordered a review of the approval process.

It is backed by the state’s two Republican senators, Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, as well as its congressional representative, Rep. Mary Peltola (D). However, it is vocally opposed by local tribal leaders, who have said it would pose a threat to local wildlife and fisheries that Native Alaskans rely on.

“The Ambler Road will pierce the heart of the hunting and fishing lands that our people have depended on for thousands of years,” the Tanana Chiefs Conference, which represents 42 tribal groups, said in a fact sheet opposing the project. “The road alone would cause harmful impacts along 125 miles and 200,000 acres of public lands managed by the State in trust for its people.”

A spokesperson for Ambler told The Hill that the company had not yet received direct confirmation of a denial. But the spokesperson was critical of any decision that would deny the construction.

“[I]f true, this decision ignores the support of local communities for this project, while denying jobs for Alaskans and critical revenues for a region where youth are being forced to leave because of a lack of opportunity,” the spokesperson said.

The decision comes as polling indicates many of the younger voters who helped secure President Biden’s victory in 2020 are wavering in 2024. While many younger voters indicate Biden’s handling of the ongoing conflict in Gaza is a major factor, those voters are also far more likely to name climate and the environment as a major priority.

Biden’s earlier approval of the massive Willow oil drilling project in Alaska was a bitter disappointment to many environment-focused voters, and Haaland herself, who opposed the project while representing New Mexico in Congress, kept a notably low profile as the approval was announced.

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