Kuskokwim tribes fight Donlin Gold mine

A consortium of tribal governments from the Kuskokwim region, led by Orutsararmiut Native Council, has filed an appeal of two permits issued by the state of Alaska to Donlin Gold, a mine project owned by Canadian based mining companies NovaGold and Barrick Gold.

“Our concerns and request for dialogue on waste management, reclamation, fish habitat, and many other permits have been ignored repeatedly by the state,” said Peter Evon, executive director of ONC. “Given our voices and rights as tribal governments have seemingly fallen on deaf ears our only recourse here is to challenge these permits that would allow Donlin Gold to operate outside of state water quality standards and leave a toxic pit in the Kuskokwim drainage that will require water treatment forever.”

The proposed Donlin Gold mine would be one of the largest open pit mines in the world. The tribal groups contend that the project would dramatically change the Yukon Kuskokwim region, threaten the health and well-being of communities and wildlife for generations by damaging water, fish and game resources critical to the subsistence lifestyle of the Yukon Kuskokwim River Delta.

“We are not at all satisfied with what Donlin has proposed in terms of full reclamation and water treatment obligations” Evon said. The tribes want the state to address what the tribes see as the inadequacy of the current mine plan, including what they contend is an inadequate bond amount.

Since the Dunleavy administration took office in December the state has issued two final permits and dozens of new draft permits for the project, all without consultations with tribal governments, Evon said.

The full list of tribes who signed the appeal includes Orutsararmiut Native Council, Native Village of Kwigillingok, Native Village of Eek, Kasigluk Traditional Council, Chuloonawick Native Village, Native Village of Nightmute, Kongiganak Traditional Council, Native Village of Tununak, Chevak Traditional Council, Organized Village of Kwethluk, Chefornak Traditional Council, Tuluksak Tribal Council, Sleetmute Traditional Council, and Akiak Native Community. The tribes are represented by Earthjustice in the appeals.