KYUK AM

Deadline For Donlin Water Quality Permit Is Approaching

Public comments for the water quality certification permit for the Donlin gold mine are due July 13.
Credit KYUK

A deadline is quickly approaching for an important state water quality permit that the proposed Donlin gold mine needs to begin operations. The mine would be one of the biggest in the world if completed. 

By July 13, all public comments must be submitted to the Department of Environmental Conservation, or DEC, for the state water quality certification permit.

To meet state standards, the company’s plans have to assure the state that the mine won’t affect water quality in Crooked Creek, a tributary that drains into the Kuskokwim river.

This latest permit is required under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. Under Section 401, states have legal authority to review an application for a project that requires a federal permit. In this case, the Army Corps of Engineers has to permit the project since it impacts 3,500 acres of wetlands, James Rypkema, a program manager at the DEC’s Division of Water, told KYUK.

Without the permit, Donlin can’t receive any permits from the Army Corps of Engineers, which is supposed to roll out its record of decision for the project in mid-August, according to Jamie Hyslop, the Corps’ project manager for the Donlin gold mine. DEC’s Rypkema said that the agency can issue the decision in a number of ways: approve it, approve it with conditions, or deny the permit because it doesn’t comply with the Clean Water Act.

However, it’s rare that a permit is outright denied, Rypkema added. DEC expects to reach its decision on the water quality permit in early August before the Corps issues its decision. This is separate from another state permit Donlin received a couple months ago. That one allowed wastewater discharge into Crooked Creek.

Donlin spokesman Kurt Parkan said that the mine does not plan to discharge any solid mine waste, or fill, into the creek. He says that tailings and waste will be contained in a tailings dam and waste rock facility.

So far, Donlin has received two state permits and expects to get most of its major ones out of the way this year. The company needs at least one hundred before it can start mining.

Written comments can be mailed to DEC WDAP/401 Certification; 555 Cordova St, Anchorage, AK 99501 or emailed to dec-401cert@alaska.gov. For more information, call 907-269-6285.