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The Native Village of Kwigillingok joins others in federal lawsuit against Donlin

Dean Swope

The Native Village of Kwigillingok has joined other Kuskokwim region tribes in a federal lawsuit challenging the permits awarded to the proposed Donlin Gold mine.

As proposed, Donlin would be an open pit mine and the largest pure-gold mine in the world, located upstream of one of the largest river deltas. The site is 10 miles north of the Kuskokwim River next to a salmon spawning stream that flows into the river.

The Kwigillingok I.R.A. Council, the governing body of the Native Village of Kwigillingok, passed a unanimous resolution opposing the mine in 2018. The resolution states that negative impacts from the mine could affect current Tribal citizens as well as future generations.

“With climate change, salmon bycatch from pollock factory trawlers, and other factors that are causing salmon declines, it’s become even more important for us to protect salmon and other natural resources that we depend on for our existence,” said Native Village of Kwigillingok President Gavin Phillip. “We don’t feel our concerns have been heard. The process of gathering comments was not sufficient for us and traditional knowledge was not adequately incorporated in the environmental studies.”

Dan Graham, the general manager of Donlin Gold, said in a press release, “While we are disappointed, we continue to extend invitations to have open dialogue about concerns, questions and information, and we don’t see that changing. Our goal is to be a good neighbor and follow through on our community investments and continue to review and update the safeguards to the environment where appropriate as we work toward advancing the project in a safe and responsible manner.”

The tribes suing in federal court to halt the proposed mine are the original plaintiffs: Orutsararmiut Native Council, Tuluksak Native Community, and the Organized Village of Kwethluk. The three additional plaintiffs are the Native Village of Kwigillingok, the Native Village of Eek, and the Chevak Native Village. Kwigillingok is also involved in a state lawsuit challenging the project’s pipeline right-of-way lease across state land.

Francisco Martínezcuello is the KYUK News Reporting Fellow and a graduate of UC Berkeley School of Journalism. He is also a veteran of the United States Marine Corps.
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