Kuskokwim Tribes Fight Donlin Mine Permits

Leaders assert major mine permits are illegal, rushed, and ignore local concerns


Peter Evon, Orutsararmiut Native Council Executive Director (907) 545-4417

Today, a consortium of tribal governments from the Kuskokwim region led by Orutsararmiut Native Council (ONC) filed an appeal of two permits recently issued by the State of Alaska to Donlin Gold, a mining project owned by Canadian based mining giants NovaGold and Barrick Gold.

If it is constructed, the proposed Donlin Gold mine will be one of the world’s largest open-pit mines. The project will dramatically change the Yukon Kuskokwim region, threatening the health and well-being of residents, communities, and wildlife for generations.  Construction of the mine may permanently damage water, fish and game resources, and the subsistence lifestyle of the Yukon Kuskokwim River Delta. Donlin’s proposed reclamation and closure plan is of great concern to tribal leaders who demand a plan that protects future generations who will have to live with the consequences of the Donlin project for all time.

“Our concerns and request for dialogue on waste management, reclamation, fish habitat and many other permits have been ignored repeatedly by the State.” said Peter Evon, ONC Executive Director.  “Given our voices and rights as tribal governments have seemingly fallen on deaf ears our only recourse here is to challenge these permits that would allow Donlin Gold to operate outside of state water quality standards and leave a toxic pit in the Kuskokwim drainage that will require water treatment forever.”   

“We are not at all satisfied with what Donlin has proposed in terms of full reclamation and water treatment obligations.  We believe that the State of Alaska must address the inadequacy of their current plan, including an inadequate bond amount before the people of the Kuskokwim can even begin to feel comfortable with accepting this kind of a risk,“ said Mr. Evon.

Since taking office last December, the Dunleavy administration has issued two final permits and dozens of new draft permits for the project without any consultation with Tribal Governments.  

The full list of Tribes signed onto the appeal includes: Orutsararmiut Native Council, Native Village of Kwigillingok, Native Village of Eek, Kasigluk Traditional Council, Chuloonawick Native Village, Native Village of Nightmute, Kongiganak Traditional Council, Native Village of Tununak, Chevak Traditional Council, Organized Village of Kwethluk, Chefornak Traditional Council, Tuluksak Tribal Council, Sleetmute Traditional Council, and Akiak Native Community.  The Tribes are represented by Earthjustice in the appeals.

An aerial view of the Kuskokwim River in Alaska. The Donlin Gold mine project would dramatically change the Yukon Kuskokwim region.
(Joseph/Umnak / CC BY-SA 2.0)
An aerial view of the Kuskokwim River in Alaska. The Donlin Gold mine project would dramatically change the Yukon Kuskokwim region. (Joseph/Umnak / CC BY-SA 2.0)

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