In 1971, during the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act land selection process, Elders from the village of Crooked Creek selected lands 10 miles north of their village, due to the area’s known mineral potential. By taking ownership of these lands, the Elders secured Alaska Native oversight over any future development.
The land where Donlin Gold LLC (Donlin Gold) is developing a mine is owned by Calista Corporation (Calista) and The Kuskokwim Corporation (TKC). These two Alaska Native Corporations have partnered with Donlin Gold to allow development of the surface and minerals on their land.
Calista and TKC are working with Donlin Gold to preserve a traditional way of life and provide economic opportunities and for their Alaska Native shareholders in the Y-K Region. This requires developing and protecting their land.
Donlin Gold and its owner companies, NovaGold and Barric
With approximately 34 million ounces of gold in the proven and probable reserve categories, the Donlin Gold project is slated to produce approximately 1.1 million ounces per year over its 27-year lifespan.
- Environmental studies for the Project include air quality, climate, aquatic (i.e. invertebrates, fish and their habitat), cultural, geochemistry, geotechnical, mercury, water quality, wetlands and wildlife (i.e. moose, fur bearers and birds). These studies and baseline data were used to design the Project and to support the permitting process. Many of these environmental studies will be continued during mine operations and post closure for mine monitoring.
- After six years of environmental review, including extensive opportunities for public comment, Donlin Gold received the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on April 27, 2018. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued a joint Record of Decision (ROD) on August 13, 2018. The ROD formally concluded the environmental review process under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
- The permitting process is managed by federal and state regulatory agencies. Donlin Gold’s permit applications will be reviewed by these agencies and possibly amended where needed. The public agencies and Donlin Gold will have opportunities to comment on the Project at different points during the permitting process. The Project now has the federal permits and most of the state permits needed to proceed. Other state permits, such as dam permits, will take a couple more years to acquire.
- Two major approvals are remaining: Water Rights Certificates and the Project’s State Dam Safety Certificates, along with the final approval for the pipeline.
- Water Rights Certificates are pending in 2021 and the final dam safety review will take a few more years.
Major Permit Decisions and Authorizations
- Water Discharge Permit
- Integrated Waste Management Permit
- Reclamation Plan and Closure Plan/Financial Assurance Approvals
- Fish Habitat Permits for Mine, Transportation and Pipeline Components
- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Clean Water Act Section 404 (wetlands) Permit
- BLM Offer of Right of Way for Pipeline and Fiber Optic (on federal lands)
- State Pipeline Coordinator's Office Pipeline Right of Way (on state lands)
- DNR Land Authorizations
- State Fiber Optic Right of Way Authorization
- Water Rights
- Dam Safety Certificates
- For 20 years, Donlin Gold has prioritized working with communities throughout the Y-K Region. The company has invested in education and workforce development to ensure that Y-K Region residents will be able to reap the full benefits when the Project moves forward.
- Donlin Gold regularly invests in community projects that benefit residents throughout the Y-K Region. Funding Bethel Search and Rescue, an annual clothing drive and community infrastructure, like ice roads and drinking water systems, and sponsoring local athletes are just some of the ways Donlin Gold invests in these communities.
- The federal environmental review process provided lengthy public comment periods to review the entire Project and submit comments or concerns. All tribes in the Calista and MTNT (McGrath, Takotna, Nikolai and Telida) regions, GASH (Grayling, Anvik, Shageluk and Holy Cross) villages and, Knik and Tyonek tribes were invited to participate in the Environmental Impact Statement process.
- Scoping, which was conducted in 2012 for approximately 4.5 months, involved hosting 14 public hearings and sending out newsletters to 7,450 mailboxes in the Y-K Region. Between scoping and release of the draft Environmental Impact Statement in 2015, the Corps conducted an additional 34 outreach meetings. The draft Environmental Impact Statement comment period lasted 157 days and included 17 public hearings hosted by 28 villages.
- In addition, Donlin Gold itself has conducted more than 400 meetings between 1995 and 2019 in communities across the region to discuss the Project details and listen to suggestions and concerns.
- Input from stakeholders in the region has strengthened Donlin Gold’s knowledge of the area and contributed to positive changes in the Project.
- Donlin Gold, Calista and TKC will create advisory committees for residents of the Y-K Region to stay engaged with Project-relevant issues such as barging, subsistence and environmental monitoring.
- Over the course of 21 years, Donlin Gold has conducted a wide range of environmental studies to evaluate the possible impacts of the activity required to construct and operate the mine.
- Resources and topics in the baseline-study program include:
- Air quality
- Cultural resources
- Fish and aquatic resources
- Hydrology/ground and surface water quality and quantity
- Land use
- Marine and river
- Public health
- Snow surveys
- Stream and sediment
- Visual aesthetics
- In addition to protecting the natural and subsistence resources in the Y-K Region, data from these studies is being used in the design process so the mine can meet or exceed environmental standards. The data will also provide information about the environment before, during and after mine operations to ensure the land is continuously protected. These studies will be submitted to regulatory agencies during the permitting process.
- Donlin Gold continues to refine its mine plan, from long-term engineering to everyday worksite behavior, they routinely exceed the safety standards required by state and federal government agencies. Your input on these plans is important. For specific details regarding land protection, view the Donlin Gold Environmental Plan.
Jobs and Economic Benefits
- $120,000 is the average annual mining wage in Alaska.
- It is projected that up to 3,000 jobs during construction (3-4 years) and an estimated 400-800 jobs during mine operation (27+ years) will be created.
- Donlin Gold has demonstrated its commitment to hiring Calista and TKC shareholders and their families with the geotechnical field program and will continue to prioritize local and shareholder hire.
- Community members, from Quinhagak to Russian Mission and Pilot Station to McGrath, have worked on Donlin Gold’s project site for the geotechnical field program to date.
- During construction, most of the work will be conducted through contractors. Calista and TKC contractors will be given preference.
- The Donlin Gold project business affiliations will provide direct and indirect opportunities to strengthen the regional economy. Mineral royalties paid to Calista will be distributed statewide through ANCSA 7(i) and 7(j), which provide benefits to shareholders and families of the 12 ANCSA regional corporations and more than 200 village corporations, thereby benefiting Native people throughout Alaska and, by extension, all Alaskans.
- To learn more about economic development opportunities, click here.
Next Steps in Project Development
- Donlin Gold and its owner companies are working to determine the next steps to reach a construction decision based on current economic conditions. This includes updated engineering work on how to best develop, build and operate the Project.
- A new feasibility study will be completed while additional factors are considered, including the price of gold, construction and operating costs, along with the conditions stipulated in the various federal and state operating permits.
- Once commenced, the construction process will last three to four years. The mine will be in operation for an estimated 27 years.
- On average it takes more than 20 years for a modern project, like Donlin Gold, to go from discovery to production.