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Donlin Gold’s Rich History in the Calista Region
Storyknife, October/November 2018 edition
From the beginning, Calista Corporation prioritized Shareholder involvement and environmentally responsible development.
During the early stages of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, Calista’s regional leaders identified the Donlin Creek area as one full of potential: Potential for Calista to fulfill an ANCSA mandate to safely and responsibly develop natural resources; and the significant potential to provide opportunities to Calista Shareholders and Descendants.
In 1996, Calista and The Kuskokwim Corporation struck an agreement for mining rights with Placer Dome, which has since been purchased by Barrick Gold. Today, Donlin Gold LLC is equally owned by Barrick Gold and NOVAGOLD.
“Placer Dome had a policy that was devoted to hiring indigenous people,” says June McAtee, former VP of Lands & Natural Resources at Calista. “This policy was an enlightened point of view for the time. Companies need to have indigenous peoples and community development policies.”
Since early exploration and studies began, Donlin Gold has been training and hiring Calista Shareholders. “Because of the mining lease terms, – the company needed to hire Calista Shareholders. That meant training and outreach to Shareholders throughout the Region,” June says. “There has been a tremendous amount of community outreach and that effort started early in the process.”
Donlin Gold has always aimed to not only make people in the Region aware of potential job opportunities, it has worked to highlight the progress. Donlin Gold holds routine community visits and mails an updated project timeline in newsletters. “Donlin Gold has been around for decades,” says June. “For younger people in the Region, Donlin has always been in their world.”
Lately activity at the Donlin site has slowed as the project waits to receive necessary permits before moving forward. The project’s environmental review process began in 2012. This process ensures the mine’s plans are safe for the environment and wildlife. In August, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management issued their Record of Decision.
The Project received a combined permit under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act. Additionally, BLM issued the Offer to Lease for the right-of-way to cover portions of the natural gas pipeline that would cross federal lands. The project anticipates receiving most of the required state permits by early 2019.
As the mining project works its way closer to a reality, Donlin Gold continues its community outreach, involvement and workforce development. The mine’s life is expected to be almost 30 years, meaning generations of Shareholders could be a part of this project. “There has been a generational turnover since the project started,” June says. “It’s the next generation of employees now.”
June McAtee, former VP of Lands and Natural Resources at Calista, worked as vice president for 20 years, under five Calista Presidents and CEOs. Before becoming vice president, June worked 10 years as a geologist for Calista Corporation and was integral to the grassroots exploration process of the Donlin project.