Kuskokwim village leaders want changes in Donlin permits

Five regional leaders from the Kuskokwim region concerned about potential adverse impact on their salmon fisheries are asking legislators and state officials to make changes to existing and pending state permits for the open pit Donlin Gold mine.

Peter Evon, executive director of Bethel’s Orutsararmiut Traditional Native Council; Dora Wassillie, secretary of Kasigluk Traditional Council; Agnes Azzarella, also of the Kasigluk Traditional Council; Richard Slats, second chief of the Chevak Native Village Tribe; and Jean Simon, clinical facilities manager for the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corp., were in Juneau Feb. 26-28 to meet with the legislators and state agencies.

The mine is located at the headwaters of the Kuskokwim River, the major source of food for people of the Kuskokwim region, who rely on and consume more salmon than any other region of Alaska.

Earlier in February a consortium of tribal governments from across the Kuskokwim region, led by the Orutsararmiut Native Council, filed an appeal of two permits issued by the state to Donlin Gold, a mine project owned by Canadian-based NovaGold and Barrick Gold.

Evon said the tribal entities are challenging 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.”

More than a dozen tribes, represented by Earthjustice, support the appeal on these permits.