Donlin Gold Restores Fish Habitat at Snow Gulch
Storyknife, September/October 2023 edition
This fall, Donlin Gold completed its third year of work to restore fish habitat in an area just north of the proposed mine site called Snow Gulch.
The vision for the Snow Gulch project is to make an area transformed by nearly 80 years of placer mining more hospitable to fish and other wildlife.
“It’s just the first part of a much larger project to protect and restore more than 200 acres of aquatic habitat,” says Donlin Gold Permitting and Environmental Manager Enric Fernandez.
SNOW GULCH MINING LEGACY
Between 1910 and 2016, an estimated 8,200 ounces of placer gold and 600 ounces of silver were produced from Snow Gulch. The Lyman family started placer mining at Snow Gulch in the 1940s, but much of the gold production occurred between 1983 and 1992.
Snow Gulch was reclaimed properly after placer mining ended, but Donlin saw an opportunity to make the area more ecologically productive, and put together a detailed plan to do that, Fernandez says.
The plan developed by Donlin’s environmental team has since been authorized through permits issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
HOW IT WORKS
The current project includes an old drainage channel that feeds into a pond created during placer mining.
The drainage channel runs in a straight line, with hardly any natural stream habitat, and Donlin will create a curved channel like it existed historically.
The pond has been enlarged and deepened to increase fish habitat and reduce low-oxygen conditions in the winter, and the shoreline was designed to promote aquatic vegetation and shallow habitat important to juvenile fish.
Donlin began site clearing in 2021, and as of this fall, it has finished much of the pond expansion. In 2024, it hopes to complete the project by rebuilding the stream channel and expanding the wetlands area.