Click on a category below to view the details for the year-ended November 30, 2016.
The project sites at Donlin Gold and Galore Creek were in care and maintenance throughout the year-ended November 30, 2016. Due to the limited care and maintenance activities at each project, NOVAGOLD is reporting on its sustainability commitments in narrative form. Once site activities resume, NOVAGOLD will provide more detailed sustainability metrics.
Environmental protection is a fundamental element of the Donlin Gold project. Taking the steps today to carefully plan our daily activities and design our projects to prevent and mitigate environmental impact is good business practice, reducing both near- and long-term risk at our project. Donlin Gold’s extensive environmental evaluations and baseline data collection, combined with our collective experience and that of third party expertise, are all key factors in being well prepared to plan, avoid, mitigate and respond should an unanticipated event/incident such as a spill occur. Moreover, the State of Alaska has a strong track record in regulating and overseeing large mining projects.
The best available technologies will continue to be utilized to meet or exceed all air and water quality standards with extensive environmental monitoring and reporting during all project phases. Best practices will also be carefully followed for safe management of water, waste rock, tailings, fuels, chemicals, and control of dust.
It is estimated that the proposed Donlin Gold mine would require an average load of 153 megawatts provided by an on-site power generation plant. To provide the amount of power required to operate the mine, a 14-inch, 315-mile-long buried pipeline to transport natural gas from the Cook Inlet region to the mine site has been proposed.
The pipeline was designed to significantly reduce the use of diesel fuel and to limit the number of diesel fuel barges on the Kuskokwim River. Many other options to provide power such as coal, hydroelectricity, a power line intertie, biofuel, and even nuclear energy, were considered during the feasibility analysis, but did not meet the current needs of the project.
Buried pipelines reduce visual impacts and are not barriers to wildlife migration. Construction would be timed to protect wetlands, minimize impacts on subsistence hunting and fishing as well as recreational activities. Best practices would be used at stream crossings to minimize impacts to water flow and quality, and fish. Invasive species management procedures will be used to reduce the risk of introducing non-native species during the construction and reclamation processes.
A reclamation and closure plan is required by law and must be approved by the State prior to the development of a mine to ensure that when mining activities are completed, the mine is closed and the land is reclaimed to a natural state. To ensure that reclamation and closure are properly carried out and meet permit requirements, the law requires the mine operator to provide financial assurance in the form of a bond or other financial assurance mechanism that is independent of the company.
Reclamation involves re-contouring the land, covering it with soil where needed and seeding it with vegetation native to the area. Reclamation will be ongoing through construction and operation as certain phases of the project are completed. Once operations are completed, structures that the landowners do not want to retain would be razed, foundations covered, and native vegetation planted. Water would be pumped out of the tailings storage facility to the open pit. The waste rock storage area would be regraded, covered and revegetated. The pit would begin to fill once the groundwater wells used for mine dewatering are turned off; after approximately 50 years the water level in the pit would reach a level where active management would be required. At that time, water from the pit will be pumped to a closure water treatment plant, will be treated to meet State water quality standards, and will be discharged to Crooked Creek. Monitoring will continue post-closure to ensure that all environmental standards are met.
NOVAGOLD is committed to developing a strong local workforce while providing an environment where every employee goes home safe each and every day. The Company is dedicated to empowering individuals and communities, working together to ensure a brighter future for everyone.
NOVAGOLD and its affiliates support training programs to develop a skilled pool of workers in the project area communities and provide ongoing opportunities for employees to improve their skills. Understanding the local cultures, environments, and social sensitivities allows NOVAGOLD to operate in a socially responsible manner and develop and retain an effective locally-based workforce.
To prepare for the potential construction and operational phases of a mine at Donlin Gold, a proactive workforce development program was initiated in 2012. Donlin Gold representatives have visited schools to highlight the different types of jobs available in mining, and describe the skills that will be required for these positions. In addition, Donlin Gold developed a Jobs Brochure to further educate the future potential workforce of the types of employment opportunities which Donlin Gold would offer as well as education and experience needed to prepare for such opportunities. This brochure has been widely distributed throughout the region. Students are reminded that all jobs are expected to require a high school diploma.
The workforce development program involves working collaboratively with the State of Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Native Corporations, school districts and regional training facilities as well as with local residents. Through the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program, the Calista Education and Culture scholarship program, the Kuskokwim Educational Foundation, and the EXCEL Alaska Career & Technical Education Camps, Donlin Gold is providing students in the Kuskokwim Region with training today. Partnerships with the Calista Corporation and its subsidiaries established internships for students who have completed mining and construction-related training courses.
A related project is the Talent Bank on Donlin Gold’s website that helps tailor the workforce development plan to the needs of residents in the region. Participants are invited to submit work history information not for a job application, but to help Donlin Gold plan for future local workforce development needs. The project’s workforce development plan will direct residents to the programs and training resources available that will support them in applying for and gaining employment.
As the project progressed through the exploration phase, Donlin Gold established a strong track record of hiring and retaining employees from the region. Many of these employees with experience and the right mentorship successfully moved up from entry-level positions into managerial roles.
There is much more to mining than just minerals. Many mining projects are located near remote communities where few economic opportunities exist and where youth often need to move or commute to larger cities to find employment. By bringing an economic driver to an area, mining provides jobs, stimulates economic development and improves infrastructure and access. When mining companies and local communities work together to build strong and collaborative relationships, tangible and long lasting benefits are enjoyed by all parties.
For example at Donlin Gold, the benefits for the entire region will be far-reaching given the number of services and resources needed to ensure the successful development and operation of this important and unique asset. Key benefits for the residents of the Yukon-Kuskokwim region include jobs, project support services, transportation (air, water and ground), taxes, revenue sharing provisions for all Alaska Native corporation shareholders, and infrastructure development in the region. In addition, as demonstrated during the exploration phases of the project, we will give residents the opportunity to pursue good, long-term, and safe careers while allowing them to remain in the region and practice traditional ways of life.
NOVAGOLD supports a project development plan that considers full life-of-mine risks and opportunities, from exploration through to development, construction, operations and finally closure and reclamation. This process is initiated through collaboration with local communities and our Alaska Native and Tahltan Nation partners. These communities offer generations of traditional knowledge about the local environment, and NOVAGOLD uses this local knowledge to help guide the location, layout, and design of the project infrastructure to avoid sensitive and culturally important habitats and landscapes while still maximizing the efficiencies of the operation.
Donlin Gold has accumulated data from 16 years of environmental and engineering studies. This data has helped guide mining and infrastructure decisions and prepare the required documentation for the project permitting, which commenced in mid-2012. This information also establishes the baseline for evaluation and management of the environmental impacts that may occur during Donlin Gold's 27-year mine life, and for many years after its closure.
The Environmental, Health, Safety and Sustainability (“EHSS”) and Technical Committee of the Board of Directors has the objective of providing oversight for the development, implementation and monitoring of the Company’s health, safety, environment and sustainability policies. To learn more, we encourage you to review the EHSS Committee Charter available on our Governance page.
Donlin Gold was named the 2013 National Employer of the Year by the National Association of State Workforce Agencies (NASWA). This award recognizes a business that demonstrates outstanding accomplishments that result in a positive impact on its workforce, industry and community. The Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development nominated Donlin Gold, noting the project’s community outreach efforts, as well as their efforts to create jobs, recruit and train residents of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Region and engage with community leaders. In particular, Donlin Gold’s sponsorship of “Voyage to Excellence,” a program that helps students develop personal and social skills, service learning and career and technical standards, was acknowledged.
Donlin Gold was also pleased to be one of the 11 recipients of the 2015 Employer of Excellence Award. The award was presented by the Alaska Construction Academies for Donlin Gold’s efforts in the development of career camps with an emphasis on heavy equipment operation and maintenance.
NOVAGOLD upholds an atmosphere of openness and constructive dialogue with, and mutual respect from, all the interested parties. Establishing strong and collaborative working relationships with the communities where we operate is essential to earning and maintaining a social license to operate that is based on a solid foundation and thorough understanding of the language, values and culture of the people in the region.
NOVAGOLD's projects are located in remote areas inhabited by communities largely dependent on subsistence living and traditional lifestyles. We respect the culture and traditional lifestyles of our community partners, and strive to strengthen the cultural ties in these communities. By working hand-in-hand with local stakeholders from the start, the Company is able to develop a project that brings long-lasting benefits to the region, while upholding a commitment to responsible development.
The Company has partnered with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) to support the Alaska Fish and Wildlife Fund which is working to restore habitats and build capacity for natural resource conservation in Alaska. Learn more about this unique partnership here.
NOVAGOLD's donation and sponsorship strategy includes a focus on education, health and safety programs, with a particular focus on the needs of Alaska Native and First Nations youth. The Company supports initiatives most relevant to community needs, connecting with communities in ways that will help them grow and prosper.