The Donlin Gold project is located in rural Alaska, approximately 450 kilometers northwest of Anchorage.
There are nearly 70 distinct communities in the region surrounding the Donlin Gold project site and along the route of a proposed natural gas pipeline that would supply power to the mine. The project’s community relations teams work to engage each of these communities to build and maintain strong working relationships as the project progresses through development. This engagement includes village meetings, tours of the Donlin Gold camp, and presentations to groups and individuals.
Donlin Gold has been recognized as an exemplary project in demonstrating best practice in stakeholder engagement from the earliest stage of the project. For many years, the Donlin Gold project team has conducted extensive meetings with community members from the 56 remote native villages in the Yukon-Kuskokwim (YK) region of southwestern Alaska and the 14 villages in the neighboring Doyon region.
The Donlin Gold project team has prioritized engaging with the local communities with due consideration for their language and culture. This includes:
This has been a tremendous benefit in explaining technical aspects of the project, such as tailings management and mercury controls, to rural native communities that may not be fluent in English.
A project newsletter is distributed every other month to thousands of stakeholders in the region and has been produced and disseminated widely since the early exploration phase in 2005. This newsletter provides stakeholders accessible information on the project’s progress, responds to frequently asked questions and concerns of stakeholders, highlights community events and upcoming activities, and features local employees or people from the region making a difference. The newsletter has also been an effective forum for conveying the company’s values and commitment to community health and safety, environmental stewardship, cultural preservation, constructive community engagement, and the project team’s commitment to the local communities of the region.
Donlin Gold has also made a concerted effort to prepare regulatory agencies for the permitting phase of the project by ensuring they have extensive information on the cultural history of the region. Yup’ik employees developed a glossary of Yup'ik mining terms which is being used by the third-party contractor working on the project’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (the lead permitting agency) and is also being used by the cooperating agencies as part of their public involvement efforts during the multi-year permitting process.
The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services is currently completing a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) in conjunction with the Donlin Gold Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). When completed, the HIA will be incorporated into the EIS and included as an appendix.
At Donlin Gold in Alaska, the project team is dedicating significant resources to study the subsistence traditions and cultural heritage of the Yukon-Kuskokwim region, including funding Traditional Knowledge Harvest Surveys in conjunction with the State of Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Division of Subsistence.
The multi-phase study will last three years and include 24 communities. Phases 1 and 2 are complete. This research will provide baseline information about contemporary subsistence uses of fish, wildlife and plant resources, and traditional knowledge about these resources along the Kuskokwim and Yukon Rivers. Traditional knowledge documentation will focus on identifying what resources are harvested, and where and when they are harvested.
Systematic documentation of this information will help to address long-term data gaps in the Kuskokwim River area regarding the role of wild resources in the lives of residents of the area. This information may also be used as part of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review of the proposed Donlin Gold project. Each community surveyed must have the approval of the local governing bodies before the research begins, and the community has the opportunity to review the data and analysis prior to finalization.
Donlin Gold is also supporting regional efforts for effectively managing subsistence resources. Over the last three years, the project has contributed $60,000 to the Bering Sea Elders Advisory Group (BSEAG). Their mission is to enable the coastal tribes to fully participate in the federal fishery management process affecting their area, and to achieve policy outcomes that protect subsistence-use areas from bottom-trawling impacts, including habitat disruption, overharvesting, and salmon by-catch.
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