THOUSANDS OF JOBS ASSOCIATED WITH DONLIN
In one of the most impoverished areas of Alaska, where residents live a subsistence life that is heavily subsidized by government checks, two government agencies on Monday issued a joint record of decision for the Donlin Gold project.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Alaska District Commander Col. Michael Brooks and Assistant Interior Secretary Joe Balash signed the decision in Anchorage, signaling the end of an environmental impact statement phase for Donlin that started in 2012. The planning for the project has lasted 20 years.
The decision includes key permits to move forward, with the BLM issuing an “offer to lease” for the pipeline right of way to Donlin Gold, which will provide natural gas to power the project.
More than 10 Native villages in the area have passed resolutions opposing the mine in recent weeks. The latest village to sign the resolution was Chevak, where unemployment is 23 percent and rising.
The project would take four years to build and employ up to 3,200 workers during the peak construction, with $300 million annually into workers’ pockets. The construction phase would need 2,500 workers for the mine site and transportation facilities and 650 workers to build the natural gas line that would connect to a line from the North Slope.
Project construction jobs would be seasonal and include heavy equipment operators, site engineers, construction managers, laborers, electricians, pipe fitters, and iron/steel workers.
During operations, some 434 jobs would be filled in the first year, increasing to 1,000 jobs annually for the life of the mine, which is estimated to be 27 years. Total payroll would be $98 million per year. Mine closure and reclamation would require fewer workers.
Calista Corp. is the owner of the subsurface mineral rights and is estimated to earn $1.5 billion over the life of the project. The royalties it receives would be shared with other ANCSA corporations under the provisions of ANCSA Section 7(i). Other payments to Native-held corporations, such as Kuskokwim Corp. and CIRI for rights-of-way leases and other considerations are included in the partnership agreements.
The issuance of the Donlin Gold decision and the initial project permits are significant milestones for the project, providing the foundation for the 100 or more permits required to build what will be one of the world’s largest and highest grade gold mines, with a total yield of 33 million ounces of gold.
YES FOR SALMON COULD KILL PROJECT
The ballot initiative that has been approved for November’s General Election could kill the project, however.
Ballot Measure 1 would designate all bodies of water in Alaska as salmon habitat, unless proved otherwise. It would require tougher standards for any development in areas that are considered to be part of salmon habitat, including entire watersheds and uplands.
Opponents of Ballot Measure 1 say that the measure is so strict it will bring any development in Alaska to a halt and dry up private investment in the state.