Few Alaskans even know of it, but the world’s biggest pure gold mine is being planned by two Canadian companies near Crooked Creek, a tributary ten miles from the Kuskokwim River.
The state plans to issue draft permits for waste water discharges and waste management for the project and is taking comments now.
The mine, expected to operate for 27 years, would have a footprint of about 25 square miles.
The open pit would be over two miles long, one mile wide and nearly 2-thousand feet deep. A 30 mile road would be built to the site and include housing and offices, an airstrip, a barge terminal at Bethel, a water treatment plant and a port on the Kuskokwim for offloading.
Also – a 40 million gallon tank farm for diesel fuel would be delivered via a 315 mile pipeline from Cook Inlet, including along the Iditarod trail from Skwentna to Finger Lake. The pipeline would cross streams for anadromous and resident fish species at 77 locations.
Waste materials from the mine, called tailings, would be stored in a manmade pond held back by a 450 foot high dam.
To operate, Donlin will need 17,500 gallons of water per minute to separate the tiny flecks of gold from the rock throughout the life of the mine.
After it’s been treated, Donlin wants to empty the water into Crooked Creek.
An environmental impact statement says that creek and other waterways are classified as essential fish habitat for five species of salmon and 12 other fish species.
The company expects to receive a final impact statement from the Army Corps of Engineers in March. Agencies will then decide on more permitting.
Comments on water discharges can be made to the Department of Environmental Conservation through February 13.