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Alaska Politicians Continue to Rail Against Federal Mining Raids

By Austin Baird, Political, Rural Reporter, abaird@ktuu.com
Published On: Oct 10 2013 12:18:58 PM AKDT
Updated On: Oct 10 2013 06:43:17 PM AKDT
Chicken Alaska

Creative Commons (flickr/John & Peggy Bromley)

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -

Alaska’s political leaders continue to rail against controversial government raids of remote Alaska mining areas.

On Thursday in Washington, a group of House lawmakers heard testimony from miners who were visited by a taskforce led by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in August.

Three to seven agents (the exact number remains unclear) were armed and wearing bulletproof vests and rolled through 30 properties in the Fortymile region near the community of Chicken.

“They entered mine sites without identifying themselves,” said Sheldon Maier, president of the Fortymile Mining Association. One man “was at his cabin when they came by. Seven agents rode by on four-wheelers, didn’t stop to identify themselves, went up to his mine site without him being there.

“He had to go up and ask them what they were doing.”

Agents checked an estimated 30 sites under those tactics for violations of the Clean Water Act.

Rep. Don Young said in a statement the actions amount to an “unnecessary intrusion into the lives of Alaskan miners, who want simply nothing more than to continue the great Alaskan tradition of placer mining.”

Young introduced a bill, H.R. 3281, to remove the EPA’s criminal law enforcement authority.

Gov. Sean Parnell, a Republican, announced Thursday that an Anchorage lawyer will lead an investigation to determine whether laws were broken and why the government’s approach was so heavy-handed.

“It was just ripe for tragedy,” Parnell said during an interview with KTUU. “You don’t just blow by a miner, a miner and their wife or husband, and begin your investigation without introducing yourself, announcing your presence, speaking with them while they’re standing right there.”

Brent Cole, the lawyer leading the inquiry, has a budget up to $50,000 and 90 days to complete a report.

Cole will be reviewing documents, interviewing subjects, documenting media reports and gathering other relevant information. 

Democratic Sen. Mark Begich and Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski have also spoken against the