Basketball is big in northwest Alaska, home of Teck’s Red Dog mine, largely because it’s inexpensive, the teams are small, and it’s played indoors. In an area that experiences five months of darkness and freezing temperatures, the benefits of playing indoors are clear.
A Traditional Way of Life
More than 85% of northwest Alaska residents are Iñupiat, descendants of the first people who settled in the region more than 10,000 years ago. For centuries, hunting and fishing have been an important part of daily life for the Iñupiat, and these traditions continue to play a strong cultural and social role in their identity and values. Children growing up in the region today still follow a traditional way of life, and many have never traveled outside their village or region, let alone Alaska.
Red Dog – A Key Contributor to Northwest Alaska's Economy and Community
As one of North America’s most significant mineral deposits, and one of the largest zinc mines in the world, Red Dog is a key contributor to the region’s economy, providing significant economic benefits to the local population. The mine employs over 350 locals, and in 2010, spent more than $413 million in Alaska supporting the mine’s operations, including purchases of goods and services from 350 local businesses and organizations, royalty and tax payments, and its own payroll.
But Teck isn’t just an employer. At all of our operations, we work to find meaningful ways to partner with and enhance the quality of life in the communities in which we live and operate. So, what does basketball have to do with a zinc mine in the remote northwest region of Alaska?
Teck’s 2011 Red Dog NBA Program
In March 2011, Teck launched a student initiative that uses the National Basketball Association (NBA) as a reward for outstanding performance in school and service to the community. Nine youth representing most of the eleven communities in the region took part in Teck’s Red Dog NBA Program.
Students selected to participate in the program traveled to Portland, Oregon to watch a NBA Trail Blazers basketball game, visit several colleges and universities, the Oregon Zoo, and a local engineering company. This trip provided an opportunity for the youth involved to explore a new city and to gain perspective on professional development opportunities that exist outside of their hometowns. Group chaperone and Northwest Arctic Borough School District teacher Jim Stewart stated that, “it was one of the best things that could have been done for our village students. Literally every activity we participated in was a new experience for our students, from riding the light rail to ordering lunch at a nice restaurant.
The Next Phase of the Red Dog NBA Program
Given the success of this program, Teck will continue to sponsor one student athlete from each of the eleven villages to participate in this program.
For Teck, the students and the eleven communities of northwest Alaska, the Red Dog NBA Program, with its many positive – and at times, unexpected – outcomes, was truly a slam dunk!