Land-use agreement signed for gold mine project

BETHEL (AP) — Donlin Gold and the Kuskokwim Corp. have agreed to terms on land-use rights for a proposed gold mine 120 miles upriver of Bethel.

The price tag wasn’t disclosed. But the deal gives the Native corporation, which owns the surface estate, rights to some construction contracts and sets financial terms for decades. Corporation president Maver Carey said it also has provisions for shareholder scholarships and hiring.

“I can say that over the next few years we’ve got a few milestone payments that Donlin has agreed to pay us, for example the signing bonus for actually signing the agreement,” she told KYUK. “What we’ve done with that is create our first elders dividend, and then a portion we need to use to get our companies ready to go.”

The planned open-pit mine, owned by two Canadian companies, Nova Gold and Barrick Gold, is in the permitting stage. As planned, it would be among the largest gold mines in the world.

Kuskokwim Corp. has about 3,000 shareholders, and its portfolio includes construction and aerospace operations. It also has secured a right to a contract to build and operate a new port on the Kuskokwim River, serving Donlin barges carrying fuel and supplies. That replaces an agreement set to expire next year and sets terms for building on the land and accessing it.

The corporation also plans to play a large role in reclamation of the site after the gold is dug out and the mine is shut down.

Donlin Gold spokesman Kurt Parkan said the agreement “just marks a milestone in that partnership that has been going on for some time.”

The agreement runs until 2031 and can be extended if and when the mine comes online.

Carey called the agreement “a legacy we’re going to leave for our children and grandchildren, and when I say legacy, not just a financial legacy. We have a lot to do in terms of training and employment opportunities, so our children and grandchildren can be CEOs of the new subsidiaries we’re creating.”