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Donlin Gold Project

The Donlin Gold Project is a proposed gold mine located 13 miles north of the village of Crooked Creek, and about 270 miles northwest from Anchorage. Permitting is expected to begin in late 2012.

Donlin Gold Project

Overview

The Donlin Gold Project, formerly called Donlin Creek, is a proposed gold mine located 13 miles north of the village of Crooked Creek, and about 270 miles northwest of Anchorage (click here for map). The mine site is on land owned by the Kuskokwin Corporation and the Calista Corporation (the former owns the surface estate, the later the subsurface estate). The mine will be operated by Donlin Gold LLC, a company owned 50/50 by Barrick Gold Corporation and NovaGold Resources. (NovaGold is the parent company of Alaska Gold Company, which currently operates the Rock Creek Mine.) The permitting process is expected to begin in late 2012. This is one of the largest mine proposals in the world; current capital cost estimates for mine construction are around $7 billion.

In addition to this website, the Donlin Gold Working Group has a website dedicated to this project.  Click here to be taken to that site.

Donlin Creek Proposed LayoutProposed Operation

Donlin Gold LLC estimates that there is 30 million ounces of gold in the targeted deposit, and that mining and milling would occur for 20–30 years. The mine will be an open pit gold mine, with a waste rock facility, tailings storage facility, ore stockpile, mill, and support complex (housing, airstrip, river port, power plant and wind farm, water treatment plan, truck maintenance shop, offices, storage facilities, and roads). Mining would be done using conventional methods (blasting and trucking) and would process 50,000 to 60,000 metric tons of ore per day. Milling processes would involve crushing and grinding, froth flotation, pressure-oxidation and cyanide leaching to recover the gold.

Operating Agreement

In March 2010, Donlin Creek LLC (now called Donlin Gold) and the Calista Corporation agreed on amendments to the operating agreement. Under the new terms, Donlin Gold will pay Calista an 8% royalty from mining profits and Calista relinquished its ability to acquire an operating interest in the mine. The revised agreement also extends the lease term beyond 2031 and allows for annual renewal after 2031.

Transportation and Energy

To supply the mine with power, Donlin Gold is studying the possibility of building a 320 mile natural gas pipeline from Cook Inlet to the mine site to power a large mill and other components of the operation for a total electrical energy requirement of about 150 megawatts.  This pipeline could cost as much as $1 billion and would most likely burn imported liquefied natural gas.  The first 125 miles of the pipeline would run parallel to the Iditarod Trail. Diesel fuel and other goods and equipment would be brought to the mine via barge up the Kuskoskwim River to a new port facility at Jungkuk -- about 10 miles downriver of Crooked Creek.  A new road would lead to the mine site from there, a distance of about 20 miles. 

The Risks

Mercury Emissions

The rock at the mine site contains mercury, which is a powerful neurotoxin. Mining and milling of the rock would release the mercury. The project proposal will include ways to capture mercury emissions for proper disposal but there are still many concerns. In December 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency finalized a rule for mercury emissions from mines under its Clean Air Act authority, with comments from NAEC.  The final rule is a great step in the right direction, but Donlin will still need to evaluate other sources of potential mercury pollution, particularly off-gassed emissions from the tailings storage facility.  

Click here to download the folio "Mercury, the Donlin Creek Mine, and What it Means for the Kuskokwim River." [701 KB]

Click here for the mercury page on the Donlin Gold Working Group website.

Subsistence Resources

Industrial development poses a threat to ecosystems and subsistence resources that Native populations depend on. Food is gathered from the land by Crooked Creek and surrounding villages. Fishing of salmon, hunting of moose, caribou, and rabbits are essential sources of food to locals. Berries and other root crops grown in gardens in the region are also essential to their nutrition. The Kuskokwim River is used by five species of salmon and supports one of the largest subsistence fisheries in Alaska. The necessary precautions during development and operation of any mine in the region must be taken to prevent a disruption to the subsistence resources many people in the region depend on.

Click here to download a factsheet on Donlin Creek Mine project. 

last modified September 23, 2011 03:14 PM

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