BETHEL, ALASKA — The Alaska Department of Natural Resources has started a review of a right-of-way lease for a gas pipeline to a proposed gold mine.
The agency previously approved the lease for the Donlin Gold mine pipeline in January, KYUK-AM reported May 20.
The 507-kilometre pipeline is projected to stretch from Cook Inlet to Crooked Creek, the village closest to the mine site 451 kilometres northwest of Anchorage in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.
Donlin Gold proposed the pipeline after area communities expressed concerns over the impact extra barge traffic could have on the Kuskokwim River and fish habitat.
The lease review does not impact Donlin Gold’s timeline, the company said.
The right-of-way review was prompted by an appeal of the lease by mine opponents.
Several groups including the Orutsararmiut Native Council in Bethel appealed when the approval was first issued, saying the natural resources department failed to consider all of the pipeline’s impacts.
Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Corrie Feige denied the appeal.
The Native Village of Eek and Orutsararmiut Native Council tribal member Beverly Hoffman filed a lawsuit in Alaska Superior Court in March. Feige subsequently reversed the decision and the lawsuit was dismissed.
The department did not explain the decision to review the lease, but defended its previous analysis, saying the lengthy federal environmental review considered the impacts discussed by opponents.
A public comment period will be scheduled after the review is concluded, but the agency did not provide a timeline.
The Orutsararmiut Native Council plans to wait for the review’s completion before taking additional action.
“What we’re kind of hoping is that one of the impacts of the pipeline that gets considered is, in fact, construction in the mine itself,” council Executive Director Mark Springer said.
Springer previously testified in favour of the pipeline, saying the project would bring cheaper gas to the region. Since taking over as executive director, Springer said he plans to continue the council’s opposition to the proposed mine.