Y-K Delta tribes protest Donlin Gold in letter to mining company Novagold

The Orutsararmiut Native Council led the first public demonstration against the proposed Donlin Gold mine in 2018. (Credit Christine Trudeau/KYUK)

Ten tribes have sent a letter protesting the proposed Donlin Gold mine to the two companies trying to build it in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. The letter comes as one of the companies, Novagold, prepared to deliver its annual report to its shareholders.

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The company has touted support from the region in its quarterly earnings reports and annual presentations, but this time tribes want to make sure that investors know that not all tribes support the 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,” the letter said. 

The letter asked both companies to withdraw their investment in the project. The mineral rights and land belong to two Native corporations formed under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, and those companies have leased their rights to Canadian mining companies Novagold and Barrick Gold. The letter cited concerns about the impact extra barge traffic could have on smelt habitat, the company’s plans to store its mining waste, and the fact that the companies must treat the mine’s wastewater forever.

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In a statement, Mark Springer, the executive director of Orutsararmiut Native Council in Bethel, said that the mine would threaten the tribes’ subsistence lifestyle.

“Our gold swims in the Kuskokwim River. It hangs on our fish racks in the summer and sustains us throughout the long winter months until the salmon again return,” Springer said. 

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Last year, 35 tribes passed a resolution opposing the Donlin Gold mine at the annual Association of Village Council Presidents’ convention. That marked a major turning point in regional support for the gold prospect. The tribes signing the letter were: Orutsararmiut Native Council in Bethel, Tununak, Eek, Chuloonawick, Kasigluk, Chevak, Kotlik, Napakiak, Kongiganak, and Ohagamiut Native Council. 

Donlin Gold has repeatedly said it plans to build the mine as safely as possible.