This letter, dated May 13th, 2020, was written to the Barrick Gold Board of Directors of Toronto, Ontario and to the NovaGold Board of Directors of Vancouver, British Columbia of Canada – by several Yukon Kuskokwim Delta region tribal governments regarding the Donlin Mine project.
On behalf of our tribal citizens represented by our Tribes we are writing to ask that you withdraw your financial support from the Donlin Mine proposed in our Kuskokwim Region of Alaska.
Our Association of Village Council Presidents recently passed, by a vast majority, a resolution of opposition to the project showing strong unity across our region in our opposition to Donlin Gold Mine.
The proposed project poses too much risk to our lands and our food sources which we have an obligation to protect and develop responsibly for future generations.
As proposed the Donlin project is well outside of the responsible mining standards and cuts too many corners when it comes to protecting smelt, salmon, water quality and other critical components of wellbeing here in our region.
For example, although a “Dry Stack” option was kept in the draft EIS “alternatives”, it was never seriously considered, and a more common method of dewatering tailings to paste was rejected early on. Options to manage tailings with less water would reduce the risk of dam failure and a massive volume of contaminants reaching the Kuskokwim River, which is vital to the subsistence of our regions villages.
Related, when estimating the risk from a tailings dam failure, a spill of only 0.1% of the tailings that a full tailings facility would hold was considered. This is an extremely inaccurate representation of the actual volume that could be released.
The Donlin project will also be the first in Alaska that went into permitting with a mine design that would require perpetual water treatment, for thousands or tens of thousands of years. Rain and snowmelt will flush through the waste rock pile forever, into the open pit; if the pit water is not treated, this contaminated water will overflow into the Kuskokwim River.
The winters of 2019 and 2020 are instructive of new hydrologic trends, including rapid warming and thawing that has created unprecedented flooding. We have no reason to suspect that these conditions won’t persist and impact water load on the earthen dam at Donlin. No other mine design was even considered.
One way to reduce contamination could be to put a thick cover on the waste rock – mixtures of geotextile, clay, rock and dirt. Instead, Donlin opted for a thin (6-inch) cosmetic layer of dirt that would do nothing to prevent infiltration.
Additionally, barging is required to get fuel, chemical reagents, and other supplies to the mine. Barges could have a “population-sized” impact on smelt, according to the EIS. People have asked repeatedly for a commitment to stop barge traffic when smelt are spawning, but Donlin has not committed to this.
Donlin would be a gold mine and the US is a net exporter of gold (e.g., we already produce more than we need), and a large segment of gold production is used to manufacture jewelry – a luxury item). Whereas, subsistence resources are essential.
The decision to oppose Donlin was not one our region took lightly. However after the extensive studies demonstrating the devastation this type of mine could bring, and listening to the will of the people through the deliberations and votes of our Tribal Governments, our region remains committed to protecting our vital subsistence way of life first and foremost.
We are of course open to responsible resource development in our region when applicants can demonstrate through science that our waters and lands will not be threatened, the Donlin project has failed to meet this bar and thus it is our responsibility to future generations to say no to this risky project.
Please respect the will of the Kuskokwim Region and do not invest in the destruction of our culture, food security and way of life.
Henry Hunter Sr. – Chairman and Mark Springer – Executive Director of the Orutsararmiut Native Council; Roy Atchak – First Chief of Chevak Traditional Council; Roberta Murphy – President and Thomas Waskey – Secretary of Chuloonawick Native Village; Natalea Bunk – President, Wassillie Berlin – Vice-President, Dora Wassillie – Secretary/Treasurer of the Kasigluk Traditional Council; Joseph Joseph – President of the Kongignak Traditional Council; Melvin T. Andrew – President and Jacob Black – Vice-President of the Native village of Napakiak; Theodore T. Angaiak – President of the Native Village of Tununak; George Alexie – President of the Native Village of Eek; Jason Isaac – President of the Ohagamiut Traditional Council; and Michael Hunt Sr., Tribal President of the Village of Kotlik.