The Anchorage Economic Development Corporation released its 2013 Resource Extraction Report for Alaska. The cautious optimism of the report "...is tempered by the many challenges that still face proposed mining and oil and gas projects in our state."
On the plus side they cite renewed activity in Cook Inlet, the recent oil tax changes and some improvements to permitting processes. A large shadow looms over all this in the form of production declines, the unlikelihood of a new major find, the difficulty of extracting heavy oil, and perhaps most importantly the perception that technological advances in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling in the Lower 48 are making Alaska's lack of short-term opportunities and long project lead times appear increasingly uncompetitive. Mining is strong at the moment but it also faces future challenges in the decline in gold prices and the reluctance of a new crop of mining CEOs to take on big new investments.
Where does all this leave us? Alaska is a resource extraction state for better and for worse. We've seen some boom years and even sailed through recent hard financial times in much better position than most states. Our dependence on the petroleum sector for a third of our jobs as well as funding for roads, schools and vital government services means we are vulnerable to a "looming economic tempest" in the next decade or so.