Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Proposed Alaskan gold mine, which could be world's largest, clears regulatory hurdles; some local tribes oppose it

Donlin Creek Project as mapped by the developer, Nova Gold
A proposal for a huge, open-pit gold mine in western Alaska cleared a major regulatory hurdle Monday, but still faces opposition from Alaska Natives. After six years of environmental review, the Donlin Gold Project, which will be one of the biggest gold mines in the world, received permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Land Management.

Corps approval was needed because the project because it would affect thousands of acres of wetlands. BLM approval was needed because the plans include a 315-mile gas pipeline that crosses over BLM-managed federal land, Krysti Shallenberger reports for the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

The mine would bring jobs to the impoverished rural area, which mainly consists of Native Alaskan tribes who live a subsistence lifestyle "heavily subsidized by government checks," Suzanne Downing reports for Must Read Alaska. "During operations, some 434 jobs would be filled in the first year, increasing to 1,000 jobs annually for the life of the mine, which is estimated to be 27 years. Total payroll would be $98 million per year. Mine closure and reclamation would require fewer workers."

But many Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Native Alaskans oppose the project. "Nearly a dozen have passed anti-mine resolutions in the past two years. The tribes fear the mine would damage their subsistence lifestyle. And they fear a mine accident could contaminate the Kuskokwim River, a vital food source," Shallenberger reports.

The mine is far from a done deal. It will require more than 100 other permits, and a ballot initiative in November could kill the project. The measure would designate all Alaskan water bodies as salmon habitat unless proven otherwise, and would require tougher standards for developers to prove that an area isn't a habitat. Opponents say it's so strict it would stymie development, Downing reports.

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