Cost of Living
Because these communities aren’t connected to Alaska’s road system, everything—including oil to heat homes and diesel to generate electricity—must be brought in by boat or small plane. Transporting things this way means that fuel costs twice what it does in Anchorage. That, and the increased price of even the most basic staple goods, contributes to the daily squeeze that residents feel.
In addition to building a transportation route connecting several villages to a deepwater port (and in the process lowering bulk transportation costs for almost everything consumed in the region), the Pebble Mine will need a lot of electricity. The current draft plan aligns with public policy prioritizing development of low-cost energy for rural Alaska. Pebble is very interested in working with government and other groups to energize Southwest Alaska with affordable low-cost electrical power or natural gas energy, with great potential to lower current village prices approaching .80 cents per KW/H. Compared to the mine’s needs, village electrification would be just a drop in the bucket, but as a low-cost energy source, its impact on household budgets could mean the difference between a family’s staying in the community and leaving.
Another consequence of the area’s relative isolation is a lack of businesses to provide employment. The three biggest sectors are the salmon fishery, government and tourism, but commercial fishing is highly seasonal work and tourism mostly centers on warm-weather activities like guided sport fishing, hunting and wildlife viewing. Government is the only significant year-round employer. Between them, Alaska Fish and Game, the US Postal Service, law enforcement, the court system, and tribal governments account for an average of 424 jobs in the Lake and Peninsula Borough, and even government employment fluctuates somewhat with the seasons.
This lack of employers is another way in which Pebble hopes to make a difference. During its construction phase, the Pebble Mine would generate several thousand jobs, and throughout its initial 20 year operating life will provide for more than 2,000 full-time positions. The Partnership has committed to prioritizing local hiring, providing apprenticeships and on-the-job-training to ensure that as many residents as possible can share in the benefits. And that’s not taking into account the third-party jobs created by contractors, support services and others.