After 20 years of planning, patience and persistence, the proposed Donlin Gold Project has taken another step forward in the permitting process to construct massive, integrated mining infrastructure on a site in the Alaskan Yukon. An average 100 permits will be required to get the project off the ground.

Alaska’s Department of Natural Resources recently announced it has launched a review of a right-of-way lease to build a 315-mile natural gas pipeline that will extend from Alaska’s Cook Inlet to the village of Crooked Creek, an area closest to the proposed mine. The gas will be used to power mining operations and will eliminate any additional barge traffic hauling diesel fuel in the inlet. The open-access line also will allow other users to take advantage of unused gas capacity. Donlin Gold says the mine will only require 50% of the pipeline’s capacity.

The Donlin Gold Mine

Alaska’s vast natural resources are as legendary as the state’s longtime oil production in the North Slope and Jack London’s short story, Call of the Wild. During the 1890s Klondike Gold Rush, tens of thousands of gold prospectors descended upon the Yukon with big dreams and hopes in hands to lay claim to the area’s prolific gold-bearing veins and—of course—strike it rich. The Donlin project, which began in 1996, sits on one of those sites first explored in 1909 but never developed.

After confirming the presence of large amounts of gold on a swath of territory in the Yukon Kuskokwim region, Donlin reached agreements with Alaska Native corporations to build a mining site, now known as the Donlin Gold Project. Beneath the undeveloped 1909 site, this parcel of land contains one of the world’s largest known deposits with an expected recovery of 1.5 ounces of gold every year for more than 27 years. Building out a project this remote, of this magnitude, is stupefying to imagine. Constructing the mine and its infrastructure will require temporary airstrips, camps, material sites and pipeline storage yards, and once fully permitted will take three to four years to complete. The bounty is unfathomable.

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