Court Grants DOI’s Voluntary Remand of Decision on Ambler Access Project

On May 17, the U.S. District Court granted the U.S. Department of the Interior’s (DOI) motion for voluntary remand without vacatur of the previously issued Joint Record of Decision (JROD) that authorized a right-of-way across federally managed lands for the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA) and Trilogy Metals’ Ambler Access Project (AAP). The AAP is a proposed 211-mile, controlled industrial access road that would provide access to the Ambler Mining District in northwestern Alaska.

Alaska District Court Judge Sharon Gleason also ruled that the court shall retain jurisdiction over this matter and required the DOI to file a status report within 60 days from the date of the order and every 60 days thereafter. In addition, any party involved in this action may move for a status conference upon a showing of good cause. The DOI indicated that the remand was necessary because it identified deficiencies in their analysis of impacts to subsistence uses under ANILCA Section 810 and their consultation with tribes pursuant to NHPA Section 106.27. They requested a remand to supplement the administrative record.

Now that the remand request has been granted, the company said it will continue discussions with its partners, including NANA Regional Corp. Inc., AIDEA, the Northwest Arctic Borough, the state of Alaska and South32 Ltd. to determine the impact of the above decision on AIDEA’s proposed plan and budget for the 2022 summer field season activities that were previously announced. “Now that the court has ruled to remand and not, as requested by the plaintiffs, vacate the JROD, we can focus on the upcoming exploration field season at the Upper Kobuk Mineral Projects and AIDEA’s field program for the AAP,” Trilogy Metals President and CEO Tony Giardini said.

He also acknowledged the show of support that the AAP has received from the native villages in the Upper Kobuk Region and the Northwest Arctic Borough, that have passed resolutions in favor of the AAP. In a recent opinion piece published in the Anchorage Daily News, tribal presidents representing two federally recognized tribes from Northwest Alaska stated “It is critical that the department (DOI) clearly identify the additional tasks and have specific timelines to complete further analysis of subsistence, environmental, religious and cultural impacts of the Ambler Access Project. And we believe certain fieldwork should be allowed to continue so we do not lose the short season for that work to be done.”

Giardini said the company is hopeful the additional analysis will be completed in a prompt time period. “Lastly, we recognize that subsistence is a key factor not just in the development of the road, but in the development of the Upper Kobuk Mineral Projects, which we believe will have significant positive impacts on the local economy through the provision of high paying stable jobs for Native Alaskans, and the production of green metals, such as copper and cobalt, which are critical for the decarbonization of the planet.”

Trilogy Metals holds a 50% interest in Ambler Metals LLC which has a 100% interest in the Upper Kobuk Mineral Projects, which are located within the Ambler Mining District. It’s one of the richest and most-prospective known copper-dominant districts in the world. Trilogy’s vision is to develop the Ambler Mining District into a premier North American copper producer.

As featured in Womp 2022 Vol 06 -