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Bering River Coal Field

Last Modified: 17th December 2015

Background

Kushtaka Lake

An aerial view of Kushtaka Lake, looking out over the Bering River Delta

The Bering River Coal Field is a bituminous coal field, located near Bering Glacier, between Icy Bay and the mouth of the Copper River.  Also nearby is Carbon Mountain which contains one of the only anthracite deposits in the state.  The protection or exploitation of these coal fields has been a contentious issue for many years, starting with the creation by President Theodore Roosevelt of the Chugach National Forest at the start of the 20th century in part to prevent coal development. The first chief of the US Forest Service, Gifford Pinchot, was subsequently fired in 1910 for continued attempts to stop coal development in this area during the celebrated Ballinger-Pinchot controversy.

During the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971, the coal fields (~73,000 acres) were chosen by the Chugach Alaska Corporation (CAC) as part of their settlement.  The rights to the coal development were then transferred to the Korean Alaska Development Corporation (KADCO) in 1991 as part of the CAC bankruptcy proceedings. 

The field at that time was transferred with a value of $1 million, however it had been assessed at $99 million so CAC was able to take the difference as a loss, which they were able to sell to other corporations under the "loss selling" amendment of 1986.  The $45 million profit on this maneuver was an important part of CAC's return to profitability.  The main shareholder of KADCO wants to retire mining rights on the land and is currently (2011) asking $15.8 million to do so.

Current Status

Currently, the Eyak Preservation Council and others are working with KADCO to purchase and retire the coal mining rights on this land.

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Attribution and Copyright info

By David CoilErin McKittrickBretwood HigmanGround Truth Trekking

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Date Created: 19th April 2010