Donlin Gold to begin drilling program

Donlin runway and camp site in summer 2014.
The proposed Donlin Gold mine would be one of the biggest gold mines in the world if completed. (Photo by Dean Swope/KYUK)

It’s going to be a busy year for Donlin Gold.

The company is gearing up for another round of geotechnical drilling, its first in two years. They are also advertising jobs for local hires, which is a vital selling point for their proposed gold mine in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.

“Bear guard” is one of the jobs available.

“Well, there’s been recent events in Alaska where bears have been attacking people working on similar types of projects,” said Clyde Gillespie, Donlin’s senior project engineer.

There are other, slightly less risky jobs needed as well, like drillers, mechanics, cooks and housekeepers. Donlin expects to hire 120 people for a yearlong drilling program, the first in two years.

The drilling program will help the company prepare for its dam safety certification. That means it needs to evaluate the mine site in order to build seven dams for its gold mine. It’s one of the biggest hurdles that must be overcome before the company can build the mine.

Donlin promised to prioritize local hires, specifically shareholders from the two Native corporations that own the mineral and surface rights, but most of these jobs are contracted out. So how will Donlin hold up its end of the deal?

“We write that right into the contract,” Gillespie said.

Enforcing that part of the contract falls, in part, to Calista Corporation and The Kuskokwim Corporation. They work with Donlin and the contractors to fill the positions with their shareholders. Donlin spokesperson Kristina Woolston says that 90% of employees in the last drilling program were shareholders. She said that the majority came from the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.

The dam safety certification process could take two years and does not have a formal public comment process. Donlin and state agencies have said that they have open-door policies for the public.

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