by Grant Fairbanks
The Donlin Gold Final Environmental Impact Statement issued by the United States Corp of Engineers is being readied for print and any day we will have answers to many many questions. Everyone should be aware that there will not be any final public meetings on this decision. There will be only a 30 day period for us to read this very big document and then it will be recorded as a final decision.
After all this work and all these public meetings we will not be able to comment in a meaningful way as to if the changes everyone proposed over the last few years were incorporated.
Will this mine be permitted as outlined in Donlin’s original mine plan?
Will this mine not be permitted due to risks and problems beyond Donlin and its partners economic and professional scope?
Will this mine be permitted but with the addition of alternatives proposed by public, private and professional persons and agencies? Alternative that can make a mine of this type safer and less harmful to the earth. Alternatives to lessen barge traffic, lessen the chances of pit lake dam failure. Better ways to protect the water, air, fish and animals. Proposals for a different way to power the mine and cleaner air.
I have come up with an analogy of this final process. The story of a beehive and the mine.
Hundreds, if not thousands of people have worked, studied, testified and written about this project over the last 22 years. Tens of millions of dollars from Donlin, the Federal and State governments and all the donated time and energy from the public process has gone into this proposed project. I think of the hundreds of scientists, biologists, hydrologists, economists, land managers, regular citizens and corporate employees that have worked so hard for the last 10 years on this permitting document. They have been working for the Corp of Engineers, third party contractors, native corporations, mining corporations and their contractors. The state of Alaska has had many departments study this and the Federal government with all their different agencies researching the mine plan and all the Federal regulations is overwhelming.
The beehive is all these workers, the worker bees. The very tragic and sad part of this analogy is that it’s the two Queen bees that will make the final decision.
It is this analogy that make me so angry about our permitting process and the final decision about the permits and then if the mine will really be built.
In a more rational and democratic society this would be a group decision among all the players. It would be decided by its merits and all its problems but in our current situation that will not be the case here. Politics and shareholders equity trumps the health of our people, our earth and our morality.
One Queen bee in Washington D.C and the other Queen bee in a board room very very far away in Canada will decide the outcome. The DC Queen bee will decide if a permit will be issued. He will probably be given a much smaller briefing document, smaller than the final EIS to read and his decision will carry the political weight of his job and tenure with the current crazy politics around him.
The Board Room Queen Bee will make his decision after the DC Bee has ruled. The Board Room Bee is the most important Bee. He or his predecessor started this hive of activity more than 22 years ago and now he will decide if there is enough honey in the hive to build a golden mine. All this gathering of pollen by so many bees, over such a long time and one bee will decide based on the current price of honey, “gold”.
It all drips down to the price of gold. The history of this industry and its past failures doesn’t warrant this project on this river, on this tundra and near our fish. The worker bees need to speak out but they can’t.