Final decision on Donlin Creek Mine in Alaska is expected this year
While the trials and tribulations of the Pebble Project in Alaska have been well documented here and elsewhere, E&E News is reporting on a potential mining success story in Southwest Alaska.
The Donlin Gold mine, a partnership of NovaGold Resources Inc. and Barrick Gold Corp., has quietly progressed to the point in which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is set to release its final environmental impact statement on what is one of the largest undeveloped gold deposits in the world.
NovaGold and Barrick predict that the gold strike could hold at least 1.1 kt (39 million oz) of precious ore. “We can say with conviction that these are some of the finest intercepts any gold company has produced recently — and in any jurisdiction,” NovaGold president and chief executive officer Greg Lang said in a project report.
In its 2017 financial report, Lang described the company’s drilling program as “better than expected,” with high grades of ore found not only in the original mine area but in regions well beyond the current site.
While the Donlin Creek project has progressed well, the Pebble Project, which is also located in southwestern Alaska has faced a series of hurdles, the most recent being a decision by U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to reverse a decision that would have stopped Obama-era regulations, arguing that “any mining projects in the region likely pose a risk to the abundant natural resources that exist there.”
The Donlin Gold mine has drawn objections from some Native villages and state environmental groups but has been staying out of the national spotlight.
Since 2012, regulators have held 29 meetings in 17 villages located near the proposed mine. Meanwhile, Donlin Gold has hosted site tours with local leaders, invested in community projects throughout the Yukon-Kuskokwim area, and has become one of the major donors for Alaska's iconic Iditarod dog mushing race.
The company plans to produce an average of 30 t/a (1.1 million ozpy) of gold for roughly 27 years, although NovaGold recently said digging could continue well beyond that date, thanks to early signs that the site holds more precious ore than originally expected.
Because of the mine's remote location, the company is building three immense projects, (a road and port project, a water transportation corridor and a natural gas pipeline) each with its own unique challenges and potential impacts
Donlin Gold's base of operations, including the mine site and related facilities and a 1,524-m (5,000-ft) airstrip, would have a total footprint of more than 64 km2 (25 sq miles). The mine would be located 16 km (10 miles) north of the tiny village of Crooked Creek.
When the project is fully operational, the openpit mine itself would be 3.5 km (2.2 miles) long and a 1.6 km (1 mile) wide, and extend a third of a mile into the Earth. The tailings impoundment would cover 951 ha (2,350) acres of land, and the waste rock site would take up another 906 ha (2,240 acres). The company anticipates processing 53.5 kt/d (59,000 stpd) of ore each day.