Alaska Native Community Asks Barrick Gold To Pull Out Of Southwest Alaska Mining Operation

The following is courtesy of Mother Kuskokwim Coalition:

Mother Kuskokwim Coalition to Barrick Gold: Walk Away from Proposed Donlin Gold Mine in Southwest Alaska

May 1, 2023 (Bethel, Alaska) – Alaska Native community leaders are attending the Barrick Gold (NYSE: GOLD) Annual General Meeting this week to raise indigenous rights concerns and call on Barrick to withdraw from the controversial Donlin open pit gold mine, which threatens the headwaters of the Kuskokwim River. In advance of the AGM, nine Tribes in the Kuskokwim region sent a letter calling on Barrick to withdraw financial support from the project.

“Barrick promotes themselves as prioritizing environmental sustainability and indigenous partnerships but we have not seen that in our region. The truth is they do not as witnessed in other parts of the world.” said Beverly Hoffman, Orutsararmiut Tribal Citizen and co-founder of the Mother Kuskokwim Tribal Coalition.  “Even though my Calista Native Corporation and Kuskokwim Corporations are involved it was never voted on by shareholders and the fact is the majority of our people oppose Donlin, we are asking Barrick to walk away from this project that threatens our land, waters, food security and way of life”.

Opposition to the controversial open pit cyanide leach gold mine has dramatically increased in recent years, including formal opposition by the Association of Village Council Presidents, which represents 56 Tribal Governments in the Kuskokwim region, the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation, and the National Congress of American Indians.

“Our traditional economies are deeply rooted in the quality of our ecosystems and the food they provide, and Donlin Gold’s mining operation puts our lifestyle at perpetual risk,” said Sophie Swope, Orutsararmiut Tribal Citizen and Director of Mother Kuskokwim Tribal Coalition.  “Despite numerous chances to uphold their commitments to environmental sustainability and Indigenous peoples’ rights, Barrick has already failed to keep their promises by choosing the hazardous wet tailings impoundment over the considerably safer dry-stacking technique for mine tailings. Furthermore, Barrick’s CEO Mark Bristow referred our tribes to the Donlin Gold Advisory technical Review and Oversight Committee – Subsistence Advisory Committee, which doesn’t actually exist and has never held a meeting, rendering it incapable of advising Barrick in any capacity.”  Said Swope.  

As proposed, the massive industrial operation would destroy thousands of acres of wetlands and streams, create billions of tons of waste, increase mercury levels in neighboring waters, destroy salmon and salmon habitat, create a massive pit “lake” containing arsenic, mercury, and selenium that requires treatment in perpetuity, and which could lead to harm to salmon and salmon habitat if everything does not go as predicted. 

The full list of Tribes signed onto the letter include: Orutsararmiut Native CouncilNative Village of EekKasigluk Traditional CouncilChuloonawick Native VillageKongiganak Traditional Council, Native Village of Tununak, Chevak Traditional CouncilNative Village of Napakiak and Kotlik Traditional Council.