KYUK AM

Public Comments Due On Donlin Gold Permit

Credit Katie Basile / KYUK

The deadline to comment on draft reclamation plans and financial assurances for the proposed Donlin gold mine is today at 5 p.m. State officials say that the comments should target the contents of the permits, and not just be a general statement of opposition against the mine. 

The proposed mine would be one of the biggest in the world, if completed. Donlin needs approval for its reclamation plans and financial assurances before it can move forward. 

The mine would impact about 3,500 acres of wetlands and permanently eliminate one salmon stream. Its operations would partially eliminate another salmon stream, but Donlin Gold will restore other fish habitat as part of state requirements for its permits from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Donlin received 13 permits from the agency last week.

Alaska law requires Donlin to pay to clean up and restore the land. In this case, the state Department of Environmental Conservation requires the company to pay $317 million for the reclamation. State documents put the actual costs to clean up the mine at more than $1 billion.

However, the Alaska DEC says that based on their calculations, the $317 million that is bonded to the mine would gather interest over the mine’s operating period and be enough to cover reclamation costs when the mine shuts down. Donlin Gold expects to operate the mine for 27 years, with a possible extension, but it gets complicated over who pays for reclamation if Donlin goes bankrupt and the state doesn’t have enough money to cover the costs. 

The project would be constructed on Native Corporation land; the Calista Regional Native Corporation and The Kuskokwim Corporation own the subsurface rights and surface rights respectively. Allan Nakanishi, the technical engineer for DEC’s mining division, said that in the worst case scenario, the fight to pay for Donlin’s mess could become a legal battle.

The public can submit their comments to Faith Martineau at the Alaska Department of Natural Resources by email or regular mail. 

Written comments can be mailed to:

Alaska Department of Natural Resources
Office of Project Management and Permitting
550 W. 7th Avenue, Suite 1430

Email comments should be sent to faith.martineau@alaska.gov 

For more information, call (907) 269-0949.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly said that the Donlin Mine would eliminate two salmon streams. It would only eliminate one, American Creek, with its operations, while  partially eliminating another, Anaconda Creek, by filling it in with its tailings dam. The company will restore other streams to mitigate the damage as part of its permitting requirements from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.