Public hearings to discuss proposed Donlin Gold Mine

by Mark Arehart on January 11, 2013

The proposed Donlin Gold Mine has started the long, multi-step permitting process. But, before any permits can be granted the project is subject to an environmental impact statement. This includes a series of public meetings in communities along the Kuskokwim.

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The proposed Donlin Gold mine is a 16-year-old venture between Barrick Gold and Nova Gold to explore the estimated 33 million ounce gold reserve.

The US Army Corps of Engineers is preparing the environmental impact statement to analyze the effects of the open pit gold mine located 10 miles north of Crooked Creek on the Kuskokwim River.

The Corps isn’t the only agency involved in the process, The Bureau of Land Management, the US Fish and Wildlife Service as well as the Environmental Protection Agency, along with other federal and local entities all have a say.

Officials have said the study will identify potential physical, biological and social impacts from all phases of the project and help to decide if the mine will be awarded the various permits needed to actually break ground.

The nearly three-year EIS process is part of the National Environmental Policy Act and started December 14th.

Don Kuhle, project manager with the Army Corps of Engineers, said the first step is called the “scoping” process.

“And that’s the period in which we’re trying to gather information regarding any concerns or issues that may be out there,” he said.

Public comments will be taken at meetings in Bethel on January 14th at the Cultural Center, in Aniak on January 15th at the high school, in Crooked Creek January 16th at the tribal council office and finally in anchorage on January 22nd at the Wilda Martson Theater. All meetings are to be held at 6pm.

Public comments and concerns will be taken until March 29th.

“And that infomation will be used in preparing the draft EIS,” Kuhle said.

Kuhle says that is the next step should be completed in August 2014.

Then Kuhle said, there will be another series of public meetings to review the Draft EIS.

The final EIS is scheduled to come out in October 2015, with an ultimate decision on the permitting process coming November that same year.

Communities along the Kuskokwim have raised concerns about the possible effects the almost 2,000 foot deep mine could have on subsistence foods.

The project outline has plans for a waste treatment facility on site.

The US Army Corps of Engineers encourages anyone who wishes to comment on the study to attend one of the meetings or go to DonlinGoldEIS.com or email comments to comments@DonlinGoldEIS.com.

Again comments will be taken until March 29th.

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