Protect the Kuskokwim
No Donlin Gold
What’s at Stake
The Kuskokwim River originates on the western slope of the Alaska Range and drains into the Bering Sea at the Yukon-Kuskokwim delta. Water, ice, and soil form a landscape made up of wetlands, permafrost and tundra. The rich subarctic environment is a massive carbon storehouse and climate refuge. The Kuskokwim River provides local Yup’ik, Cup’ik, Athabascan, and other residents with one of the largest traditional and customary fisheries in the world, with salmon making up more than 50% of the annual diet.
Waters in this region of Alaska provide habitat for at least 40 species of fish, including regionally and internationally significant runs of salmon. Extending for 724 miles, the Kuskokwim is the second largest river in Alaska. In terms of average volume of water flowing out of the river each year, the Kuskokwim is the ninth largest river in the United States. It is also the longest river to exist exclusively within one US state. The Kuskokwim drainage contains 38 communities and an approximate total of 4,600 households. While this area of Alaska is one of the lowest in cash income, it is the highest in community harvest of fish and game resources not only for basic nutrition, but as the bedrock of identity and cultural values for the people of the region.
The majority of communities in the region have declared their opposition to the Donlin Gold Project. The history and track record of large-scale, open pit sulfide mines paints a dismal future picture for the Kuskokwim. Whether or not state and federal authorities continue to rubber stamp mine permits with blatant disregard for the rights of the people on the ground is not just a matter of environmental degradation, but of human rights and morality.
If built, the Donlin Gold Mine would have significant impacts on subsistence and the Yukon-Kuskokwim’s way of life. The EPA cited “potentially serious impacts on human health and environment,” and “increased concentration of mercury and arsenic in surface water and sediments.” The project would be one of the largest open pit mines in the world, and would require massive infrastructure including an access road, gas pipeline and a dramatic increase in barge traffic on the Kuskokwim River which will heavily impact the spawning of rainbow smelt, an important food source for the people of the Kuskokwim. The industrial development would release large volumes of greenhouse gases into our rapidly warming climate. The pit lake would require water treatment in perpetuity, meaning our children’s children will be dealing with this mine long after its projected 27 year lifespan.
Tribal Opposition to Donlin
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