Drills are turning again at Donlin Gold
COVID protocols to protect workers, area residents in place North of 60 Mining News – July 3, 2020
Last updated 8/6/2020 at 3:15pm
After a two-month suspension due to COVID-19, drills are once again turning at the Donlin Gold project in the Yukon-Kuskokwim region of Southwest Alaska.
Donlin Gold LLC – a 50-50 joint venture between Novagold Resources Inc. and Barrick Gold Corp. – began gearing up for a roughly 22,000-meter drill program at Donlin in February and had drills turning on the 39-million-ounce gold project by March. With the novel coronavirus outbreak elevating to pandemic levels, the partners idled down the drills and closed the camp to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 into the region.
With more than half the Donlin Gold workforce being Alaska Natives, many from rural communities, these workers working alongside employees and contractors from Alaska hub cities and out of state, it is essential that strict protocols were established before work resumed at Donlin.
After meeting with Alaska Native leaders in the Yukon-Kuskokwim region, Donlin Gold established safety COVID-19 measures that meet state and local requirements.
These measures require:
• All Donlin personnel to take a COVID-19 test before going to camp, and again when they leave.
• Out-of-state personnel require two negative COVID-19 tests prior to going to camp.
• Donlin Gold charter flights for transportation to and from the site.
• A minimum of six feet of distance in eating areas and living quarters at the camp.
• More frequent camp sanitation.
• Regular COVID-19 screenings.
All Donlin Gold camp personnel are asked to monitor their health in and out of camp and consult health professionals if feeling any symptoms of illness. Should any individual exhibit symptoms of illness, on-site health professionals will determine if they need to be quarantined at site or evacuated.
"Novagold's most important objective right now is the health and safety of its employees, partners and contractors," said Novagold Resources President Greg Lang.
With protocols in place aimed at achieving this primary objective, the Donlin Gold partners reopened camp and resumed the planned 2020 drill program.
"The drill program remobilized in late-May, and we currently have four rigs operating," Lang informed shareholders last week. "We have completed about 20 holes so far this year. Assuming no further interruptions, it is anticipated that the majority of the 2020 drill program which consist of about 80 holes totaling over 20,000 meters has centered on the Acma and Lewis areas will be completed."
Acma and Lewis are the two primary deposits that host the 541 million metric tons of measured and indicated resources at Donlin averaging 2.24 grams per metric ton (39 million oz) gold.
With roughly 34 million oz of this gold upgraded to reserves, a 2011 feasibility study outlined a mine at Donlin that would produce 1.1 million oz of gold annually for 27 years.
This year's drilling is focused on confirming and expanding areas within this enormous deposit that could contribute some of the highest-grade gold during the initial years of mining.
Optimization drilling completed in 2017 provided a glimpse of the widths and grades of the higher-grade zones.
Highlights from this program include: 130.5 meters grading 5.93 g/t gold; 39 meters of 9.34 g/t gold; 43.9 meters of 7.6 g/t gold; 64 meters of 5.09 g/t gold; and 30.4 meters of 10.3 g/t gold.
This year's robust drill program should provide a better look at these higher-grade zones and move Donlin Gold a step closer to a development decision.
This would be good news for Alaska's economy, which has been hit with a double blow from COVID-19 and low oil prices.
"Other industries there have been experiencing low or no growth in Alaska and the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the cruise ship and tourist industries may take many years to recover," said Lang.
A mine would also provide jobs and other economic opportunities for the shareholders of Calista Corp., the Alaska Native corporation for the region and owner of the mineral rights at Donlin, and The Kuskokwim Corp., an Alaska Native village corporation that owns the surface rights of the enormous gold property.
"With a long history of mining and a skilled workforce in the state, Donlin Gold offers the opportunity of a future with good paying, year round careers and training for young people to live close to home and maintain a subsistence way of life," Lang added.