Over 100 Y-K Delta Residents, Tribes Protest Donlin Mine In Letter To Governor

The proposed site for the Donlin gold mine would impact 3,500 acres of wetlands in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.
Credit KYUK

More than 100 residents, six tribes, and one organization in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta sent a letter to Gov. Bill Walker protesting the proposed Donlin gold mine. Meanwhile, a national environmental group, Earthjustice, asked the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation to deny a crucial permit for Donlin.

The Yukon-Kuskokwim River Alliance, a local working group, spearheaded the effort. Other signees included six Y-K Delta tribes: ONC, Tuluksak, Chuloonawick, Kwigillingok, Kongiganak and Nunapitchuk.

The letter pleaded with Gov. Walker and his agency heads to listen to concerns about the mine’s impacts to the subsistence lifestyle and water quality. For instance, the letter says that DEC did not allow enough public participation before giving Donlin its wastewater discharge permit back in May. Gov. Walker voiced his support of the mine earlier this year, making it unclear how he will address the letter.

A separate letter from Earthjustice implored the DEC to deny Donlin’s state water quality certification. Earthjustice sent the letter to the agency last week on behalf of four Y-K Delta tribes: ONC, Chuloonawick, Tuluksak, and Kwigillingok. The letter cited concerns over potential water contamination from the mine’s operations and impacts to smelt from increased barge traffic. Without this certification, Donlin can’t develop the mine, which could be one of the biggest gold mines in the world.

Donlin has said repeatedly that it will continue to work with local communities to “address their concerns and misconceptions about the mine.” The company expects to have its major permits out of the way this year. It needs at least 100 before it can begin operating.