Orutsararmiut Native Council has made its stance against Donlin Gold official. The tribe’s governing body marched in Bethel last Friday against the proposed gold mine, which would be located north of Crooked Creek on a tributary of the Kuskokwim river. The Donlin gold mine would be one of the biggest in the world if completed.
Though individuals from the region have voiced their concerns at various public hearings about the mine’s impact on the Kuskokwim River and subsistence resources, ONC board president Walter Jim says that Friday was the first time that a tribal organization has publicly opposed the project.
"My belief is that every tribe’s responsibility is to protect that tribe and part of those protections is the subsistence way of life. And we see Donlin’s development as a threat to the subsistence of the river," Jim said.
Jim says that ONC has actually been against the mine for the past couple of years. He says that plans to make its opposition public fell by the wayside after the death of their natural resource development director, Greg Roczicka. A newly formed local opposition group, the Yukon-Kuskokwim River Alliance, also marched with ONC.
The mine’s development plans includes a huge increase in barge traffic on the Kuskokwim, which is the source of the region’s subsistence fisheries. Jim says that ONC is reaching out to other tribes in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta to try to unite in opposition against the Donlin Gold project. He says that there will be more demonstrations down the line, but it’s not clear when those might occur.
Meanwhile, comments for a state water quality permit for Donlin are due July 13. The permit will allow Donlin to discharge dredge or fill material into Crooked Creek. Dredging is the act of removing silt and other materials from water to, in this case, dig out the gold.
An earlier version of this article mistakenly said the deadline for the permit comment deadline is July 12.