The Alaska Conference on Mining Impacts and Prevention – A Gathering of Land and Water Guardians took place from March 16 -18, 2022. The three-day gathering took place at the Hotel Alyeska on the land of the Dena’ina in Girdwood, Alaska. The conference brought together over 150 Indigenous leaders, community members, conservation advocates, and nine foundation representatives from around the country to learn about preventing industrial-scale mining and associated activities as well as reforming practices and mitigating impacts in Alaska. The conference offered an opportunity to share knowledge, uplift stories from representatives of communities that bear the brunt of impacts, and create space for healing, growth, and relationship building.
Alaska Conservation Foundation felt a safe space needed to be created to allow Alaskans to connect around the state’s largest and fastest-growing social and environmental threat – industrial-scale mining. Additionally, we wanted Alaskans to explore the need for a Just Transition (a framework for a fair shift to an economy that is ecologically sustainable and equitable for all Alaskans) and a regenerative economy.
As the host of the mining gathering, Alaska Conservation Foundation elevated community involvement and input throughout the process by forming and coordinating three working groups consisting of 25 individuals: Community Working Group, International/National Working Group, and Alaska Non-Profit Working Group. These working groups were critical to the success of the conference.
The Alaska Conference on Mining Impacts and Prevention was attended by over 150 individuals, with one-third of the attendees self-identifying as Indigenous representing over 30 communities across the state. ACF prioritized Indigenous participation by raising funds to offset and/or cover housing, travel, food, and registration costs. Alaska Conservation Foundation also ensured the broader, tribal, conservation, and climate community was represented; in the end, over 50 distinct entities were represented at the conference. Alaska Conservation Foundation is proud to report that the conference was successful in mitigating COVID-19. We had zero COVID-19 cases reported.
In addition to the regular conference program, Alaska Conservation Foundation also provided an intentional community-building space. This included a funder happy hour event, an Indigenous-only dinner, and five campaign/coalition meet-ups. The meet-ups allowed our partners not only the advantage of attending the conference itself but much-needed face time to discuss ongoing work around mining projects such as the Donlin mine and Ambler road.
To help tell the story of impacts related to Hardrock Mining across the State of Alaska and the conference itself, Alaska Conservation Foundation recorded many of the breakout sessions and created a 10-minute short film: Our Wealth is Our Land.
Additional Mining Conference Links:
To ensure feedback, Alaska Conservation Foundation started with a survey. Over 70 conference participants filled out the survey. Alaska Conservation Foundation then hosted two feedback calls, one with members of the three working groups and the other with a group who self-selected from 50+ invited conference presenters.
Hosting the Alaska Conference on Mining Impacts and Prevention allowed Alaska Conservation Foundation to gain a strong insight into the various hardrock mining-related efforts in Alaska. Here are our five takeaways:
- The problems are consistent across projects and regions.
- Food, water, community health, and Indigenous sovereignty
- Indigenous/BIPOC/Impacted community members’ participation is critical, and worth every penny spent to support participation.
- There is a deep desire for community-building around hardrock mining impacts and prevention efforts across the state.
- Attendees departed the conference looking for more support, leadership, direction, and coordination from Alaska Conservation Foundation.
- The broader conservation/Indigenous community is playing whack-a-mine with little to no collective statewide coordination. Specifically, the gaps identified are as follows:
- Community building (across issue/region)
- Policy Coordination (state and federal)
- Narrative (Communications) collaboration
During and after the conference, the broader conservation/Indigenous community was clear in expressing eagerness for Alaska Conservation Foundation to either support or lead efforts to identify and/or convene the next steps coming out of the conference. This is why we have created the Mining Impacts and Prevention Fund to specifically support advocacy efforts around ongoing mining prevention and impacts across the state.