Add Native Village of Kwigillingok To The Litigants In Donlin Gold Mine Suit

Another Alaska Native group has added itself to the lawsuit to try and block the Donlin Gold Mine.

Here’s the press release via the Village of Kwigillingok and Earthjustice:

Native Village of Kwigillingok Joins Other Southwest Alaska Tribes in Federal Lawsuit to Halt the Donlin Gold Mine

KWIGILLINGOK, ALASKA – The Native Village of Kwigillingok has joined other Kuskokwim region Tribes in a federal lawsuit challenging the proposed Donlin Gold Mine. 

As proposed, Donlin would be an open pit mine and the largest pure-gold mine in the world in one of the largest river deltas. The site is 10 miles north of the Kuskokwim River, next to a salmon spawning stream that flows into the river. 

The Kwigillingok I.R.A. Council, the governing body of the Native Village of Kwigillingok, passed a unanimous resolution opposing the mine in 2018. The resolution states that negative impacts from the mine could affect Tribal citizens now, as well as future generations to come. 

“With climate change, salmon bycatch from pollock factory trawlers and other factors that are causing salmon declines, it’s become even more important for us to protect salmon and other natural resources that we depend on for our existence,” said Native Village of Kwigillingok President Gavin Phillip. “We have been opposed to the Donlin Gold mine for years, but we don’t feel our concerns have been heard. The process of gathering comments was not sufficient for us and traditional knowledge was not adequately incorporated in the environmental studies.” 

Phillip added, “So many things could go wrong. One example is the pit lake to hold the mine’s toxic waste that will need to be treated in perpetuity. That’s not an easy pill to swallow, to think that it will always be contaminated. Eventually, it will fail or be affected by runoff. If this project goes through, our children, grandchildren and many more generations will pay, and Donlin Gold will walk away with their money.” 

The federal lawsuit targets flawed environmental and subsistence studies and permits for the mine. These include the Final Environmental Impact Statement; the 2018 Joint Record of Decision approving the project signed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and the U.S. Department of the Interior (Interior); the federal Army Corps permit allowing the filling of thousands of acres of wetlands and tens of miles of streams; and a right-of-way authorization issued by the BLM and Interior allowing a natural gas pipeline to be built to power the mine. 

The lawsuit asks the court to invalidate the federal authorizations for the Donlin project and to require federal agencies to identify and require measures to prevent predicted harms to rainbow smelt from Donlin’s barges. 

The Tribes suing in federal court to halt the proposed mine are the original plaintiffs – Orutsararmiut Native Council, Tuluksak Native Community and the Organized Village of Kwethluk – and three additional plaintiffs – Native Village of Eek, Native Village of Kwigillingok and Chevak Native Village. Earthjustice, a nonprofit public interest environmental law firm with offices in Anchorage and Juneau, is representing the Tribes. The Native Village of Kwigillingok is also involved in in state lawsuit challenging the project’s pipeline right-of-way lease across state land. For more information about this federal lawsuit and other state lawsuits challenging the mine project, visit this Earthjustice case website.