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ENVIRONMENT

Federal Government Okays New Massive Gold Mine in Alaska, Local Tribes Outraged

Image of gold bars
Gold bars via Pixabay.

After a six-year environmental review process and against the wishes of many local native tribes and residents, the federal government gave the go-ahead on the development of a new gold mine in Alaska, in what would become the largest gold mine in the world.

Construction of the new mine called the Donlin Gold Project is in southwestern Alaska, about 275 miles of Anchorage and ten miles north of the Kuskokwim River community of Crooked Creek.

Joint Decision on Donlin Gold

The Army Corps and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released a joint decision on Monday which approved of the Donlin Gold Project and issued the project’s first permits. The initial permits approved dredging the area for construction of the mine, construction of initial structures, and permission to discharge “fill material” into the surrounding wetlands.

Anchorage Daily News cautioned that the project still had to seek scores of individual state and federal permits, but Donlin Gold advocates were pleased with Monday’s news.

“We still have a ways to go for sure, but today’s decision is a really big deal,” said Kurt Parkan, a Donlin Gold spokesman. Donlin Gold is owned by the mining company NovaGold.

Advocates for the mining project have largely focused on its potential for job creation as estimates say the project could employ 3,200 workers at its peak construction period. After construction, the mine is estimated to create 430 jobs in the first year, increasing to 1000 jobs in the following years and for the remainder of the estimated 27-year lifetime of the mine.

Local Tribes Fear Losing Way of Life

Not everyone was happy with Monday’s news, local tribes and residents were reportedly outraged by the decision and had asked the Alaska governor to extend the environmental review process by a year so tribes could meaningfully participate in the environmental review.

An article by the Orutsrarmiut Native Council (ONC) claimed that “the sovereign tribal governments of the region were barred from attending a press event” and that the public-hearings promised to place prior to issuing the permits never happened. The ONC claimed they conducted a recent survey on the mine and that most residents didn’t know much about the Donlin project and that no meetings were ever held to inform them about plans for the mine.

The article went on to explain that residents rely on the natural habitat for survival – residents pick berries, fish, hunt and put up food to sustain them through the winter.

“Donlin would be the largest gold mine in the world. The social and environmental impacts could be devastating to our subsistence region and traditional Yup’ik way of life where we have less opportunity for cash income but lots of subsistence foods from the land to keep our communities and families healthy,” said Mary Matthias, Natural Resources Director for Orutsararmiut Native Council.

3,500 Acres of Wetlands and 226,000 Feet of Streams to be Impacted

Plans for the mine would include the creation of a 316-mile gas pipeline, a 2,350-acre tailings pond to hold waste materials, a 30-mile access road to a port where barges would haul cargo, supplies and diesel fuel along the Kuskokwim River and out to the Bering Sea.

The Army Corps admitted an estimated 3,500 acres of wetlands and 226,000 linear feet of streams would be impacted, but said the Donlin Gold plan was the least environmentally damaging.

According to the ONC, the potential impacts the over 10,000 page Final Environmental Impact Statement outlined in their assessment included “increased levels of mercury both atmospherically deposited and in the Yukon and Kuskokwim River, damage to salmon habitat, disruption of smelt spawning, increased erosion of the banks of the Kuskokwim, and much more.”

Salmon Could Stop Donlin Gold Mine

There is a glimmer of hope for local tribes and residents as an initiative on the ballot in November could stop the project dead in its tracks if it passes. The initiative which is being called Stand For Salmon would designate all waters in Alaska as salmon habitats, unless proven otherwise. Doing so would require the Department of Fish and Wildlife to hold any projects in salmon habitats to much tougher standards and would give the department more power to stop projects.

Critics of Stand For Salmon call it an anti-mining or anti-development effort but Emily Anderson of the Wild Salmon Center, who helped draft the bill, disagrees.

“This is a proactive way to get ahead of the curve to put strong fisheries protections standards in place that really encourage those responsible development projects that are not trading one resource for another,” Anderson said.

The Stand For Salmon bill could be the last chance for preserving the way of life for tribal residents in the region.

“We are now calling on the Trump administration, the Walker administration, the board and staff of Calista, Doyon, and Kuskokwim Corps . . . anyone who may be an ultimate decider on this project, to slow down this rushed process. Please come to our region and our villages. Meet with our governments and our people. Work with us who live here to decide on whether this project is compatible with our local economy and way of life. From our tribes perspective, this mine is devastating.  We are federally recognized Yup’ik Tribes located along the Kuskokwim and Yukon Rivers, where we have subsisted on the salmon, smelt, migratory birds, and other ecological resources of these rivers for thousands of years. There must be respectful leader-to-leader dialogue and decision making with our people, and it must happen now,” said Matthias of the Orutsararmiut Native Council.

If you want to support the Orutsararmiut Native Council or Stand For Salmon, you can contact them through their websites: NativeCouncil.org and StandForSalmon.org. If you want to contact or support the mining project, you can go to DonlinGold.com.

 

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Lauren von Bernuth

Lauren is one of the co-founders of Citizen Truth. She graduated with a degree in Political Economy from Tulane University. She spent the following years backpacking around the world and starting a green business in the health and wellness industry. She found her way back to politics and discovered a passion for journalism dedicated to finding the truth.

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25 Comments

  1. Jason Self August 15, 2018

    Explain where all the gold in the Twin Towers went first.

    You know, the gold that was removed, yet wrote off as “destroyed” in the “terrorist” attack? That same gold billions in insurance paid off?

    Reply
  2. Jerry Schroader August 15, 2018

    Good

    Reply
  3. Deborah Anderson August 15, 2018

    Don’t allow this that bitch majeski is paid and sold

    Reply
  4. Gloria Kornblum White August 15, 2018

    We are so going backwards

    Reply
  5. Bill Williams August 15, 2018

    Belongs to native Americans, indigenous peoples.

    Reply
  6. Jason Self August 20, 2018

    Get your shiny rock!! You can’t eat it, and it serves no real purpose, unless you have a few hundred million idiots you can convince it is.

    Reply
  7. Larry L. Cunningham August 20, 2018

    Who owns the gold?

    Reply
  8. Fred Nightwalker August 20, 2018

    Stop it in court

    Reply
  9. Michaele Brown Smith August 20, 2018

    Noooo. How long will it take us to realize putting riches over people will never work. We are fools.

    Reply
  10. Louise Dodson August 20, 2018

    Stealing us blind… right in front of our face

    Reply
  11. Sandy Winter August 21, 2018

    There is no respect left in this Trump Administraction. Our beautiful land is being demonized by greed.

    Reply
  12. Chari Hayes September 21, 2018

    And what kind of jobs does it create?

    Reply
    1. Kiki Jasmine Hope Allen September 22, 2018

      Golddiggers?

  13. Elaine Carey September 21, 2018

    Save the Salmon and the tribal way of LIFE!!!♥️♥️♥️

    Reply
  14. Bengi Mendoza September 21, 2018

    We have crypto currency, no need for gold. WTF~

    Reply
  15. Alex Fedora September 21, 2018

    Better get before NWO does.

    Reply
  16. Luiz Diaz September 22, 2018

    LET THE LOCAL TRIBES HAVE THE MINE IT’S ON THEIR LAND ISN’T IT ??

    Reply
  17. Louise Dodson September 22, 2018

    I hate our government right now…a bunch of crooks have taken over America

    Reply
    1. Jim Clausen September 22, 2018

      Oligarchs, Louise.
      Oligarchs

  18. Lisa Flanagan September 22, 2018

    Wherever theirs a resource the government wants, in the middle of people to weak to fight, trust and believe the government will take it by any means necessary. Hell Africans are mutilated or killed for taking a diamond out of what’s really their yard. So I’m not even surprised by this story. Next, watch how quiet it becomes when Natives start dying trying to prevent this from happening. Smh

    Reply
  19. Komonda Nelson September 22, 2018

    For the local tribes hide your females. Seriously miners are f****** crazy

    Reply
  20. Fred Nightwalker September 22, 2018

    No

    Reply
  21. Shirley Hawkins September 22, 2018

    Bunch of golddiggers in office

    Reply
  22. Beverly Chisholm Davis September 22, 2018

    Trump loves gold anything, environment be damned.

    Reply
  23. Ronald Christensen September 22, 2018

    That means Trump said it was OK, probably with no Study or thought went into that Mine !

    Reply

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