North of 60 Mining News - The mining newspaper for Alaska and Canada's North

By Shane Lasley
Mining News 

Alaska DEC backs Donlin water certificate

Reaffirms assurance gold mine would meet Alaska standards North of 60 Mining News – May 28, 2021


Last updated 6/10/2021 at 5:27pm

Novagold Barrick Gold Donlin Mine Alaska DEC permit decision

Novagold Resources Inc.

An aerial view of the Donlin camp and 39-million-ounce gold deposit in the Yukon-Kuskokwim region of Southwest Alaska.

Alaska's Department of Environmental Conservation has upheld a certification of reasonable assurance that the proposed Donlin Gold Mine in western Alaska will comply with the state's water quality standards.

Donlin Gold LLC – a joint venture partnership owned equally by Barrick Gold Corp. and Novagold Resources Inc. – applied for the federal permits to develop a mine at the 39-million-ounce Donlin Gold deposit in 2012.

Following a six-year permitting process under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the U.S. Army Corps Engineers and Bureau of Land Management approved the federal permits needed to develop the mine proposed by Donlin Gold. The project partners, however, still needed to obtain state approvals before development could begin.

Part of the Alaska permitting process is the issuance of a certificate of reasonable assurance that the proposed mine approved by federal regulators will comply with the water quality standards, which was issued by DEC in 2018.

Bethel, Alaska-based Orutsararmiut Native Council, however, challenged this certificate on the grounds that DEC cannot provide reasonable assurance a mine at Donlin will meet water quality standards for temperature, mercury, and protection of existing uses.

In April, Administrative Law Judge Kent Sullivan from the Alaska Office of Administrative Hearings, who heard the case, concluded DEC had not demonstrated with reasonable certainty that Alaska water quality standards would be met.

Judge Sullivan's decision was sent to the state for review and Alaska DEC Commissioner Jason Brune had 45 days to determine whether to accept the decision, return it to the administrative law judge to consider additional evidence, revise its enforcement action, or reject the finding.

In a 50-page response, Brune affirmed the state's position that there is reasonable assurance that the Donlin permits issued under the federal Clean Water Act would meet Alaska's standards for water temperature, mercury concentrations, and existing uses.

"Because I find the division's decision is supported by a reasonable basis in law and substantial evidence in the record, I reject the positions advanced by the other parties," Brune penned in the conclusion of Alaska DEC's response to Orutsararmiut Native Council's appeal of the certificate of reasonable assurance. "In this matter, ONC cherry-picked portions of the record describing potential impacts in a highly technical report and characterized them as conclusive. The division consistently and thoroughly rebutted each of ONC's assertions with analysis of relevant information and data using its subject-matter expertise."

Orutsararmiut Native Council has 30 days to appeal DEC's May 27 decision to superior court.

Author Bio

Shane Lasley, Publisher

Over his more than 13 years of covering mining and mineral exploration, Shane has become renowned for his ability to report on the sector in a way that is technically sound enough to inform industry insiders while being easy to understand by a wider audience.

Email: [email protected]
Phone: (907) 726-1095


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