by Andrew Guy
March 15, 2018
In response to the February 14th, and March 7th, 2018 opinion letters written by Mr. Grant Fairbanks, I wish to offer some points of clarification. The Calista Corporation owns the minerals rights and some surface rights of the Donlin Gold project. Over the past several decades, we have been very involved in every aspect of planning for the Donlin Gold project, including working with YK tribes, Donlin Gold, the federal and state agencies and the people of the YK region to ensure the safe and responsible development of our resources.
We welcome public scrutiny of the project because we too want to protect our environment.
Donlin Gold’s proposed water treatment system and waste water management plan provides the highest level of controls. The quality of the discharged water must meet State and Federal standards which are protective of all current and potential future uses of Crooked Creek. This state-of-the art technology has proven to be effective by many mining operations and even municipal water treatment facilities around the world. It removes unwanted contaminants from the water. The arsenic and mercury levels in the discharged water will be lower than the existing natural levels found in the stream today. The water discharged from the mine will meet drinking water standards.
We share Mr. Fairbank’s concerns over the need for long-term water treatment and responsible waste water management planning. This is because Calista will be here for the long haul and if something were to happen to Donlin Gold, the responsibility for water treatment would first fall on us.
The State requires before day one of construction a bond to ensure proper water management and treatment is paid for as long as it is needed. As shown in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), this will amount in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
Donlin Gold also proposes to pay into a trust fund during operations so that at the end of mining there will be enough money in the fund to pay for the necessary treatment for as long as it is needed. As a result, future treatment will not depend on the financial health of Donlin Gold or any other company.
Moreover, the amounts cannot be reduced and monies cannot be released without Calista and the State’s concurrence agreement to do so.
Mr. Fairbanks’ makes a false assertion about the amount of mercury that would be released in the atmosphere annually. This inaccuracy was refuted by the EPA years ago. The EPA predicted the amount would be closer to 6 ounces/day. Mercury has been an important consideration in the environmental review, undergoing a very rigorous analysis of the potential impacts it could have on the environment including the health and welfare of our shareholders. This information shows that contributions of mercury to the air, land, and water from the project will be minimal, even in the nearby subsistence resources used by the village of Crooked Creek.
With all the regulated best available controls and mitigation measures highlighted in the EIS, there’s no demonstrated mercury risk associated with the project.
Mr. Fairbanks references several concerns submitted to the Corps. of Engineers from individuals and agencies during the draft EIS comment period. These comments are being thoroughly addressed in the final EIS, which should be released soon.
The more than 100 permits Donlin needs before they can operate are all focused on making sure the project is done without harming the environment.
Mr. Fairbanks also raised general concerns about the past history of mining projects. The truth is the six major mines currently operating in Alaska have a tremendous track record in protection of water quality and fish. He cites NOVAGOLD’s Rock Creek Mine as a specific concern. Rock Creek never caused damage to fish and was closed and reclaimed without any long-term water treatment.
In fact, the Bering Straits Native Corporation received the Alaska Department of Natural Resources reclamation award in 2016 in recognition of the successful implementation of the closure plan.
Calista has taken a very detailed approach to Donlin Gold and feel that it represents a great opportunity for our region and shareholders. One of our duties as a Native Corporation is to responsibly develop the land. The original Calista board, including Chief Eddie Hoffman and others, selected this land as part of ANCSA to provide economic opportunities for our region while safeguarding our resources for future generations.
We intend to continue to do so while providing future opportunities for our youth. We asked Donlin Gold to help us develop our land because we trust they will do it right and we have confidence that the government agencies responsible for permitting will insist that it is done right.
Additionally, Calista believes hiring qualified shareholders and descendants to do much of the work will allow opportunities to thrive in our ancestral homeland to the benefit of our family, iluqs, our neighbors, and our friends.
Andrew Guy is the President and CEO of the Calista Corporation.