The adit from a former uranium mine on Prince of Wales Island. (Photo: U.S. Forest Service)

Miners unable to travel to their leases and claims because of COVID-19 can apply for a one-year extension to pay the state.

An announcement by the Department of Natural Resources last month says “the COVID-19 virus places an inequitable burden on Alaska’s miners to comply with state statutes through no fault of their own, but rather through an act of God.”

A DNR spokesman says the state on average collects about $4.5 million annually in these fees and lease payments. But since the money would still be due in 2021 it’s considered to be revenue neutral.

“The commissioner’s action makes it possible for holders of all mining claimholders to delay payments of claim and lease rentals, and cash-in-lieu of annual labor, regardless of the size of their operations,” agency spokesman Dan Saddler wrote in a statement.

The Alaska Miners Association welcomed the extension but says the industry group didn’t ask for it.

“We certainly appreciate the state coming up with ways to help the industries impacted by COVID-19, particularly when it can result in longer term growth,” AMA Executive Director Deantha Skibinski wrote in an email.

Mine employees are considered essential workforce and allowed to apply for exemptions from COVID-19 travel restrictions. The order does not apply to royalty payments from active mining operations this year, the agency said.