KYUK public radio in Bethel reports that two more Native villages voted to oppose the proposed Donlin Mine in Western Alaska.
The station, without attributing it to a specific person or providing a link to a supporting document, said the villages of Napakiak and Kongiganak passed resolutions last week against the mine, claiming it would damage their subsistence way of life.
KYUK has been providing information to listeners on how to get involved in protesting the mine.
Both tribal councils, and two that passed resolutions earlier this month, live on subsistence, government checks, and dividends that come from their Native Corporations. The biggest employers in these villages are typically the public schools. The villages are relatively primitive in nature, with weather-worn housing and bucket toilets called “honey buckets” instead of western-style sanitation. Many in the area speak Yup’ik.
The population of Napakiak and Kongiganak are 354 and 439 respectively. The two other villages that passed resolutions were Tuluksak Native Community Village Council and Orutsaramiut Native Council.
In April, Gov. Bill Walker issued a statement praising the proposed mining project at Donlin, and lauded its “engagement, commitment to highest environmental and regulatory standards.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is due to issue its record of decision in August on the environmental impact statement, which will outline any mitigation needed to protect the watershed.
“This is great news for Alaska, a major step toward development of a gold mine that would bring jobs to the Yukon-Kuskokwim region and help utilize Alaska’s vast natural resources,” Gov. Walker said in April. “The Donlin Gold project still has a long way to go in the permitting process before construction and operations can begin, but the company has already proven its commitment to engage local stakeholders and make sure all development is responsible and minimizes impacts on nearby communities and the environment.”
Walker has, however, opposed the proposed Pebble Project, a couple of hundred miles away, which is still in the permitting process. Walker said that the review process for Pebble should be suspended altogether due to the lack of economic feasibility studies, which drew a public statement from the company’s CEO Tom Collier, who said, “We find it incredibly disappointing that the governor’s request to suspend the NEPA process is nearly identical to that brought forward by the anti-Alaska, anti-development Natural Resources Defense Council. We expect this type of stall tactic from ENGOs opposed to any kind of development but not from the Governor of Alaska and especially when the project is on Alaska land. Frankly, the governor does not make a compelling case to suspend the NEPA process.”
In April, the Natural Resources Defense Council indicated it has Donlin on its action list, writing, “Although Donlin Creek has received less public opposition than the controversial Pebble Mine project near Bristol Bay, indigenous communities and state environmental groups are speaking out against the mine.”
At that point, no community had spoken out against the proposed mine, which is estimated to provide thousands of jobs during construction and over 1,000 jobs during its operations, which is expected to last for decades.