Tribes request federal consultation over Graphite One

The tribes of Teller, Brevig Mission and Mary’s Igloo say the U.S. Department of Defense should have consulted with them before awarding Graphite One a $37.5 million grant last year.
The tribes wrote letters to the department this fall to express concern over the “premature funding decision” for a project that has the potential to greatly impact their communities and subsistence activities.
They also asked the Pentagon to engage in consultation with them in accordance with the federal government’s own policies about tribal consultation.
Graphite One has been developing plans for a potential mine on state-managed land the northern slopes of the Kigluaik Mountains. The region is home to a vast deposit of graphite, a key component of electric vehicle batteries. The federal government is making a push for more domestic production of minerals like graphite, and the company received the $37.5 million grant in July to fast-track a feasibility study for the project.
The grant, which used funds from the Inflation Reduction Act, was praised by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Sen. Dan Sullivan, Rep. Mary Peltola and Gov. Mike Dunleavy.
Hal Shepherd of Water Policy Consulting has been working with Teller, Mary’s Igloo and Brevig Mission to monitor water in the region. He recently shared the news that the tribes sent these letters in October. Sheperd said the tribes were especially concerned by the news that Graphite One, which is based in Vancouver, will need to make a much bigger mine than initially proposed to make their graphite products marketable to automakers like Tesla.
Gilbert Tocktoo, the president of the Traditional Council for the Native Village of Brevig Mission, said in a statement: “If we can make the some of these products available through recycling and conservation, why do we need to destroy some of the most biologically rich areas in Alaska so that one foreign company can make a profit?”
The Nugget viewed the letter Mary’s Igloo sent to the Department of Defense. In it, the tribe noted that Graphite One’s proposed mine site drains into the Imuruk Basin.
“The unique combination of geology, freshwater, and saltwater in the center of the Seward Peninsula makes the Imuruk one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems in North America, and the abundant subsistence resources are equal to many locations along the Alaska coastline making it critical to the Tribe for subsistence uses,” the letter says.
The tribes cited several federal regulations that suggest the Department of Defense should have engaged in consultation before awarding the grant, including Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.
They also say the funding decisions contradicts the Biden administration’s stated commitment to meaningful consultation. In their letters, the tribes ask the department “to rectify this mistake and engage in consultation with our Tribes on this funding decision and other decisions going forward that will impact our interests.”
“We want to hear the concerns, questions and ideas of all the stakeholders in Graphite Creek so we can continue working to put together the best possible project for the region,” Graphite One CEO Anthony Huston said in a statement.
The Department of Defense did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

 

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