Environmental Group Requests DEC Review State Water Quality Permit For Donlin

Credit Katie Basile / KYUK

The environmental group Earthjustice is requesting an informal review of a key water quality permit that the Department of Environmental Conservation granted to the Donlin Gold mine. Donlin could build one of the biggest gold mines in the world and is moving through the permitting process.

Earthjustice Attorney Tom Waldo claims that the final Environmental Impact Statement, which came out in April, shows that the mining project will have significant impacts to salmon and smelt habitat and water quality. Waldo says that the DEC didn’t properly weigh those impacts before it issued its permit in August.

Waldo filed the request with the DEC on behalf of five tribes and the Yukon-Kuskokwim River Alliance, which opposes the mine. Those tribes are: The Bethel ONC tribe, Akiak, Kwethluk, Kwigillingok, and Chuloonawick.

Donlin needed the permit in order to recieve the big permits from the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Land Management. Donlin got those major federal permits last month as well.

Donlin spokesman Kurt Parkan says that the request from Earthjustice is just part of the process.

"This is a non-news item to the extent that this shows how thorough the state permitting process is with public participation processes as intended by regulations," Parkan said. 

Andrew Sayers-Fay, director of DEC's Water Division, says that the agency is currently reviewing the request and will make a  decision within the next two weeks.

Correction: A previous version of this article said the Department of Environmental Quality issued the permit.