Donlin Gold LLC is confident that its corporate commitment to enriching the region in which it works will enable it to move forward with what could prove to be one of the world’s largest and highest-quality gold mine projects.
The Anchorage, Alaska-based company, a joint venture of mining industry leaders NOVAGOLD Resources and Barrick Gold Corp., is currently working to obtain the necessary permits to construct a mine in Alaska’s remote Yukon-Kuskokwim region. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is the lead agency responsible for drafting the environmental impact statement (EIS). The mine, which Donlin Gold intends to build after receiving the necessary permits, has an estimated reserve of 33.8 million ounces of gold, based on exploration activities conducted between 1989 and 2008.
The project would provide up to 3,000 jobs during construction, and between 800 to 1,400 jobs during its operation. Required infrastructure includes a power generation plant, water treatment plant, access roads, housing, two ports, a natural gas pipeline and an airstrip.
The company made its initial request for more than 100 permits related to the project in July 2012, triggering the initial scoping phase of the EIS process. The USACE hosted more than a dozen public hearings in conjunction with the other agencies including the Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to gather input from local communities and tribes that will be impacted by the project, External Affairs Manager Kurt Parkan says.
One of the biggest issues raised during hearings involves the method through which the proposed mine will be powered. The mine would require an average power load of 157 megawatts.
One early recommendation involved using diesel fuel as the primary power source, which would require Donlin Gold to use barges to move fuel up a river near the project site, then transport it by truck 30 miles to the mine. Residents in the region expressed concern about traffic related to this suggestion, causing the company to look at alternatives. The company’s current recommendation to power the mine involves the placement of a 14-inch, 312-mile-long buried natural gas pipeline.
A Regional Commitment
The mine’s socioeconomic impact on the region, particularly in terms of job creation, was another common point of discussion during public hearings. Donlin Gold has already reached out to Alaska Native corporations and local communities in its hiring.
“Our commitment to our region also makes us stand out – any income derived from natural resources on Alaska Native land will be shared with the regional and village corporations, so all Alaska Native corporation shareholders will benefit from the royalties of this project,” Parkan says.
The company’s hiring and training efforts earned it the 2013 National Employer of the Year award from the National Association of State Workforce Agencies (NASWA). Donlin Gold’s safety record was also recently noted by one of its corporate parents, as the company was awarded Barrick Gold’s Merit of Safety Award.Safety is one of the company’s top priorities. “We’re talking to people, sharing details and building trust,” Parkan says. “Building trust with the community takes time, but it’s something we’re focused on.”