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Record of Decision and Major Federal Permits Issued to Donlin Gold
Storyknife, September 2018 edition
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued their Record of Decision (ROD) August 13 on the proposed Donlin Gold Mine project. Immediately following signing of the ROD, the Corps issued a combined permit under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act and the BLM issued the Offer to Lease for the right-of-way (ROW) for those portions of the natural gas pipeline that would cross federal lands. Issuance of the ROD and the federal approvals marks the final step in the environmental review process that began in December 2012 with publication of a notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS). This is a major step in the project’s effort to secure key permits needed to construct and operate a mine in Southwest Alaska.
Calista Corporation (Calista) owns the minerals and The Kuskokwim Corporation (TKC) owns the surface lands at Donlin Gold as a result of selections made under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA). Donlin Gold operates the project under a mining lease with Calista and a surface-use agreement with TKC. Each of these agreements provides direct economic benefits to Calista and TKC, as well as indirect benefits, such as contracting and hiring preferences and stringent environmental-stewardship obligations.
“Calista Corporation continues over 40 years of taking an active and hands-on approach to the Donlin Gold project. Calista feels that the project represents a significant and positive opportunity for our Region and Shareholders. One of our duties as a Native corporation is to responsibly develop the land. The original Calista board, and other early regional leaders, selected this land as part of ANCSA to provide economic opportunities for our Region while safeguarding our resources for future generations,” said Andrew Guy, Calista president and CEO.
The ROD is a detailed document that explains the basis for the Corps’ determination that Donlin Gold’s proposed development for the project (Alternative 2 in the EIS) represents the environmentally preferred, practicable alternative compared to other alternatives evaluated in the EIS. The ROD also identifies the mitigation plans and monitoring commitments for the project.
“Today is a big day for the Donlin Mine project. The ROD and permits are just the beginning. They are the trail markers for the project and provide the map of how to develop our resource responsibly. The Kuskokwim Corporation is not only the surface owner, but a partner in the environmental and permitting process with Donlin Gold and the various government agencies overseeing this project. Together, we have gone above and beyond the minimum state and federal requirements to ensure this project protects our lands while economically benefitting our Shareholders and Region for generations to come,” said Maver Carey, president and CEO of The Kuskokwim Corporation.
“This has been a thorough process, with more than 20 years of planning and development, but I think it clearly demonstrates that the project has a track record of engineering excellence and a strong culture of safety, environmental stewardship and community engagement, all values that will remain constant,” said Donlin Gold General Manager Andy Cole. “We believe Donlin Gold can be a model of responsible mine development with the potential to generate meaningful benefits for our Native corporation partners and communities throughout Alaska for many decades to come.”
Donlin Gold, which is owned equally by NOVAGOLD Resources Alaska Inc. (NOVAGOLD) and Barrick Gold US Inc. (Barrick), will need additional permits to operate the proposed mine and investment approval from its owners before construction of the project can begin. “Now, Barrick and NOVAGOLD can concentrate on wrapping up optimization studies designed to reduce initial capital outlays and improve project economics,” the owners wrote in a joint press release. The project anticipates receiving most of the required state permits by early 2019.