Oregon mining company says it can build Arctic port for Alaska

Port Clarence is one of several sited being examined by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for a possible deepwater port serving the Arctic. An Oregon-based company says it has developed a business plan for constructing a port there. (Alaska Dispatch illustration)
Port Clarence is one of several sited being examined by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for a possible deepwater port serving the Arctic. An Oregon-based company says it has developed a business plan for constructing a port there.
(Alaska Dispatch illustration)
Worried that the other nations are crushing the United States in the race for Arctic shipping and resource-extraction dominance because we have no deepwater port in northern Alaska?

Never fear, Arctic-minded Alaskans. An Oregon mining entrepreneur says he has the answer.

Dennis Humbird, founder and president of a company called Sea Pirate Mining, has submitted what he contends is a serious proposal to oversee construction of a major shipping hub at Port Clarence, a site near the Bering Strait near Nome.

The proposal was sent to Gov. Sean Parnell, Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and the Alaska congressional delegation, he said.

“It is serious. We have the only plan on the table right now,” Humbird said in a telephone interview. Federal and state officials are moving too slowly on the port plan, potentially targeting 2030, he said. “Alaska and America can’t wait for 2030,” he said.

Port construction would require movement of more than 7.1 billion cubic yards — or more specifically, as Sea Pirate claims, “approximately 7,127,608,889” cubic yards — of seafloor material to create an 18-nautical-mile, 65-foot-deep channel, according to the proposal. The project, to result in a full-service port with lodging and emergency response facilities, would require the services of more than 800 skilled laborers working 24/7 for five years — minus annual three-week Christmas breaks, according to the company.

The project cost would be $3.6 billion, but Sea Pirate Mining needs no federal or state funding, Humbird said. The industrial companies that would benefit from a deepwater Arctic port would foot the bill, he said.

“We have no expectation and are not looking for appropriation of taxpayer dollars,” he said.

Gold! Gold! Gold!

Why would Sea Pirate Mining take this on? Humbird says the company has a “vested interest” — ambitions for large-scale offshore gold mining in the Bering Strait region.

Payment for Sea Pirate Mining’s services, in fact, could wind up being the gold that lies in the seafloor material to be dredged up, under the company’s proposal.

“We’re asking for the mineral rights of all that to help defray the cost of putting all this together, which we think is reasonable,” Humbird said.

The Sea Pirate Mining website is enthusiastic about the yellow metal.

“GOLD! GOLD!! GOLD!!!” says the headline of the site’s homepage. There is a company logo — a skull-and-crossbones-like design — and a slogan: “Arrr……. Gold can try… but it can’t hide.”

Treadwell said Tuesday that he had seen Sea Pirate Mining’s press release and was doubtful about at least one specific element of the plans, which is to get title to some of the Port Clarence-area land as well as the mineral rights to dredged seabed. The Coast Guard, state and Bering Straits Native Corporation “have got dibs on the land there,” he said.

Still, he said, he welcomes all ideas to promote the port project.

“There is good reason to think about a port in western Alaska, whether it’s at Nome or Port Clarence,” he said.

Port Clarence, which for decades was home to a now-closed U.S. Coast Guard navigational station, is already being considered by federal and state officials as a future deepwater port to serve Arctic shippers.

It is one of three leading contenders being considered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the state of Alaska as a preferred site for a future port serving Arctic shippers, said Lorraine Cordova, the Corps’ technical leader on the project. Other top contenders are in the same general Bering Strait area — the port of Nome and a site called Cape Riley that’s east of Port Clarence, Cordova said.

A final report evaluating potential sites that had been expected in March will be delayed because officials from the Corps’ national office are seeking additional information about port options, Cordova said.

She had not heard of the Sea Pirate Mining proposal until Tuesday, when she received a copy of the company’s news release. “These guys are quite ambitious,” she said.

Sharon Leighow, Parnell’s press secretary, said the governor’s office received an emailed copy of Sea Pirate Mining’s proposal last week. Officials there had not yet reviewed it, she said on Tuesday.

Contact Yereth Rosen at yereth(at)alaskadispatch.com

Related Links:

Norway: Norwegian company looks to Alaska for Arctic shipping port, Alaska Dispatch

Russia: New port in Murmansk, Russia slated for coal exports, Blog by Mia Bennett

United States: Alaska senator calls for investment in Arctic Ports, Alaska Public Radio Network

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