Federal officials consider Donlin mine’s subsistence impact

BETHEL — Two federal agencies have weighed in on the potential impacts the proposed Donlin Creek mine could have on subsistence along the Kuskokwim River.

Donlin Gold LLC estimates it could excavate about 34 million ounces of gold over three decades from the proposed open pit mine near the village of Crooked Creek, KYUK-AM reported.

The Army Corps of Engineers predicts that the mine would have a minor to moderate impact on subsistence practices and resources.

“Minor are impacts that tend to be low intensity, temporary duration, and local in extent typically to common resources that may experience more intense longer-term impacts,” said Keith Gordon, Army Corps Project Manager for the Donlin project.

Alan Bittner, field manager for the Bureau of Land Management, agrees that subsistence could be affected by the mine proposal.

“When we looked at all three major components of the project, it seemed like there was significant potential for subsistence resources to be affected,” Bittner said.

Plans for the mine project also include barging on the Kuskokwim River and a natural gas pipeline spanning 300 miles to Cook Inlet.

“Simply put,” Bittner said, “this is a pretty big project. There’s big components to it, and our finding is that the possibility exists in any of those major components to affect subsistence resources.”

The BLM is planning to gather feedback from the public as it looks further into how subsistence resources and access to those resources will be affected by the project.

“So our preliminary finding is that it may (be affected), and we need to hear from people about whether that’s true for them or not — the individuals who are actually in the communities and subsistence is a part of their life,” Bittner said.

The Army Corps, which is the lead federal agency creating the project’s environmental impact statement, is also looking to engage with the community by responding to their critiques and considering any alternative solutions they may have for the project.

“And if they can give us some of those reasons, give us some information about why we need to do more, that gives us something we can look back at and determine if the analysis needs to go to a deeper level or needs to be expanded,” Gordon said.

02/03/2016 - 2:54pm