March 12, 2004
Representatives from TaiPower and China Steel, Taiwan's government-owned electrical generating and steel-making companies, arrived in Anchorage Saturday for four days of meetings with private business officials and state development agencies to explore prospects for exporting coal from the Beluga Point deposits west of Anchorage.
"I am very encouraged to see that our efforts at fostering closer personal, business and economic ties with our friends in Taiwan continue to open up new opportunities for Alaskans and Alaska's resources," Murkowski said. "The value of our exports increased by 9 percent last year, most of it to Asian markets. Trade visits like this are essential if we are to continue using our natural resources to generate the jobs, revenue and economic stability our state needs."
The Taiwan delegation includes TaiPower vice president Kuei-Ming Chen and China Steel purchasing manager Chine-Jine Hsiao. They and their colleagues, most of them technical and resource experts, met with the governor, the Office of International Trade, the Department of Natural Resources, and the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority.
They also met with representatives of Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, the Alaska Natural Gas Development Authority, Resource Development Council of Alaska, the Alaska Miners Association, and with representatives of Usibelli Coal Mine and Placer Dome. They also met with representatives of two private businesses, PacRim Coal, and KFx Inc., both interested in developing the Beluga coal for Asian markets.
Bob Stiles, development manager for PacRim Coal, a Texas-based company that has invested $40 million on engineering, environmental and permitting work to market Alaska coal to Asian markets, credited Murkowski's personal diplomacy for attracting Taiwan's interest in Alaska's coal.
The governor advocated Alaska's energy and resources industries in Taiwan, Japan, Korea and Hong Kong during a trade mission last October. A month later, Murkowski welcomed Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian and Taiwan businessmen to Alaska.
"We've been working on the Taiwan market for 20-plus years, but as a result of Governor Murkowski's relationship with the president of Taiwan, we got these companies to take another look at Alaska coal as a potential fuel supply," said Stiles. "There's a very positive long-term potential for Alaska coal in the Taiwan market."
The Usibelli mine in Healy has sold coal to South Korea for decades, and the Beluga field represents another export opportunity, said Stiles, whose company controls rights to more than 700 million metric tons in the Beluga Point deposits west of Anchorage. Other coal reserves in the area are controlled by a joint venture company involving Placer Dome, the Vancouver B.C.-based mining company developing the Donlin Creek mine, and CIRI Inc., an Alaska Native regional corporation. While Alaska's sub-bituminous coal is ultra-low sulfur - less than two-tenths of one percent most Asian coal buyers prefer coal with less than the 25 percent moisture content of the Beluga coal, Stiles said.
Technological advances over the past 15 years now make it possible to economically process the low-quality Beluga coals into a premium energy fuel. This could be the key to finally developing the vast coal fields near Anchorage, which have laid dormant for 30 years. Rick Van Zyl, proposals director for KFx, who previously worked on coal technology projects in South Africa, noted that Beluga coals processed to Taiwan's specifications could open up a new are of trade for Alaska.
"We hope we can give Taiwan coal users what they want at a competitive price, unlocking the potential here in Alaska and improving the energy security of Taiwan," Van Zyl said.
Margy Johnson, director of the state's Office of International Trade, said that such challenges can be overcome but only after establishing positive business and political relationships.
"Japan, South Korea and
Taiwan are natural customers for Alaska's resources, and their
markets represent growing export opportunities," Johnson
said. "Seeing this kind of on-the-ground expression of interest
from the largest government corporations in Taiwan is a strong
indication that we are continuing to make progress in marketing
our resources to the Pacific Rim."
Source of News Release & Photograph: