This is from 136 YK Region Women who are shareholders of Calista Corporation who signed this open letter to Calista CEO Andrew Guy and Board Chair Robert Beans in hopes our voices will be heard. The letter is dated February 6, 2019.
Dear Andrew and Calista Board of Directors:
We are indigenous women of the Calista Region with strong physical, emotional, and spiritual ties to the people and the land. We are also Calista shareholders who are concerned with the development of the Donlin gold mine and how that will impact our salmon-spawning river. We are in fear of losing our way of life with what is proposed to be the largest open pit mine ever developed.
The Kuskokwim River is a lifeline for so many communities in this region, and it is our responsibility to protect and care for the river and surrounding lands and the food it provides. Almost every day of the year you can walk by the river in Bethel and see people fishing off the seawall, setting nets for lush and whitefish, and in the summer dipping for smelt.
This food, gathered from all over the Y-K Delta, is shared with all of you and many others who live outside the region. Harvesting, preparing, and sharing these foods has been part of the Yup’ik way of life from time immemorial. We continue this tradition not only for our children’s survival, but for the survival of future generations as well. It is the responsibility of all of us to ensure that these traditions can be practiced decades from now. We know you love the region just as we do, and hope you understand why we are opposed to this development.
We understand the need for economic development in this region. We have family members living in villages where it’s hard to find steady paying jobs. We want economic opportunities for all of our families, but not opportunities that will put fish, moose, caribou, seal, walrus, berries, and birds at risk. We know it is a challenging task for Calista staff and board members to resolve economic issues in this region, but with more shareholder involvement we believe there are other solutions that will not put our subsistence way of life at risk.
Many studies have shown how good our first foods are for us; it would be a huge disservice to future generations to deny them of their right to those foods. Our elders before us have sustained our way of life and stressed the importance of protecting it; it is now our turn as the upcoming generation of elders to ensure that our children have their traditional foods, which is an integral part of our culture.
We do not believe that enough information has been shared with communities about this project. The Calista Board must address what could or will happen to our waters and lands as a result of the development of this mine. Communities also need to know about potential failures of the tailings dam that would create a toxic environment for our people. How far will tailings move if there is an overflow of 10% of them when the mine is 5 years into operation, or 15 years into operation? What emergency communication is in place if there is a break in the dam? Can the tailings, if they reach the river, be cleaned up?
We are also concerned that the mine is designed to flush contaminants from the Waste Rock into the open pit, forever, and that water will need to be treated forever. We are concerned about whether we will have any say in decisions. We are concerned about how we will know if our foods are safe. We ask the Board to be open and honest about the hazards of this mine.
We are daughters, mothers, grandmothers, aunties, nieces, cousins, and wives. We know subsistence gathering is as important to you as it is to those of us who live in this region. We urge you to revisit the Donlin gold mine and put it to a vote of the shareholders. We look forward to working with you on this matter. Quyana for your time, and all the work you do for the people of this beautiful region.
This letter was sent to Andrew Guy, Calista Corporation CEO, via certified mail on February 6, 2019.