Partnering with the Northwest Arctic Borough to Support Local Communities

In Alaska, a partnership between the Northwest Arctic Borough (NAB) government and Teck is supporting essential programs and services to improve the quality of life for all residents within the region.

The Northwest Arctic Borough (NAB), which comprises over 93,000 square kilometres along the Kotzebue Sound and the Wullik, Noatak, Kobuk, Selawik, Buckland and Kugruk rivers, is the second-largest borough in Alaska. The population of the community is primarily Iñupiat, and mining is a pillar of the local economy.

Red Dog Operations (RDO) is one of NAB’s largest employers. RDO was developed under an innovative operating agreement between the landowner NANA Regional Corporation (NANA), an Alaska Native Corporation, and Teck. For more than 30 years, RDO and the people of the northwest Arctic region have worked together to create jobs and opportunities to strengthen the region.

The Village Improvement Fund

In 2017, NAB and Teck entered into a new Payment in Lieu of Taxes agreement, within which a new Village Improvement Fund was created. The Fund is dedicated to support critical projects, infrastructure and quality of life services within the 11 communities served by NAB.

An advisory body made up of representatives from each village ensures that people in the villages have meaningful input and participation into how the Fund is spent. NAB ensures that funds are fairly distributed, that potential Fund projects are evaluated based on eligibility criteria and that approved projects move toward completion.

Projects for funding are selected from a list of priorities determined by each community. Once priorities are determined, project applications relevant to those priority areas are submitted to the Village Improvement Commission. Each project is then evaluated based on 14 key criteria, including whether the project can be self-sustained in the long term.

“The Fund is administered by representatives from local communities with no influence from external parties. They ultimately determine where and how the money is spent, based on the communities’ own priorities. This is what is unique about this Fund structure,” said Wayne Hall, Manager, Community and Public Relations at Red Dog Operations.

“NANA is interested in responsible resource development and ensuring that our communities are seeing the economic benefits resulting from it,” said Liz Cravalho, Vice President of Lands for NANA Regional Corp. “We are happy that the Fund is addressing critical regional needs in a collaborative manner and supporting overall community well-being.”

As of February 2019, some approved projects include 1:

  • An energy efficiency project in Ambler

  • A water treatment plant in Kiana

  • An evacuation road in Kivalina

  • A community solar power project in Kotzebue

  • A boiler restoration and community trash cleanup in Noatak

  • A landfill cleanup in Noorvik

  • A water/sewer system rehabilitation in Selawik

For more information on projects, NAB provides a publicly available annual report detailing expenses related to the fund to maintain transparency and trust.

Learn more about our approach to Relationships with Communities and Indigenous Peoples on our website.

1NAB. Village Improvement Fund Annual Report. 2019.

First published on June 30, 2021