Tribes urge Canadian miners to divest from Donlin gold project

The Kuskokwim River. (April 12, 2007) photo courtesy of Joseph/Wikimedia Commons

Tribal entities on Alaska’s Kuskokwim River Delta are asking a major Canadian mining company to withdraw financial support from development of the Donlin Gold project at the headwaters of the Kuskokwim River.

The Association of Village Council Presidents, which represents 56 tribal governments in the region, was joined by the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation and the National Congress of American Indians in their statement to Barrick Gold Corporation’s board of directors, who are holding their annual meeting in Toronto.

The project is managed by Donlin Gold LLC, which is owned equally by subsidiaries of NOVAGOLD and Barrick. The project lies on a mineral lease of 449,100 acres, owned by Calista Corp., an Alaska Native regional corporation established under the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.

The Kuskokwim Corporation, an entity representing 10 Alaska Native village corporations also formed under ANCSA, owns the surface rights for most of the project lands.

The federally recognized tribal governments were excluded from the land claims legislation.

In their letter to Barrick Gold’s board of directors and shareholders, tribal governments said they had serious concerns about how the mine project would impact their lives and the culture of indigenous residents as well as the environment which has sustained them for millennia.

If constructed, it would be one of the largest open-pit gold mines in the world, Barrick has said.

The tribes contend that construction of the mine would permanently damage water, fish and game resources and the subsistence lifestyle of the Yukon Kuskokwim River Delta.

The tribes said they had sent a similar letter to Barrick Gold’s investor relations division last year and received no response or indication that the information was shared with shareholders.

Tribal signers of the divestment request include Orutsararmiut Native Council, Native Village of Eek, Kasigluk Traditional Council, Chuloonawick Native Village, Kongiganak Traditional Council, Native Village of Tununak, Chevak Traditional Council, Native Village of Napakiak, Kotlik Traditional Council, and Village of Ohogamiut.