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Our Approach to the Environment

NOVAGOLD’s commitment to responsible environmental management is embodied in our Environmental Policy, and includes:

  • Communication of its commitment to excellence in environmental performance to its subsidiaries, employees, contractors, other agents, and the communities in which it operates.
  • Management of new activities and operations to ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations. In the absence of regulation, best management practices will be applied to minimize environmental risk.
  • Remediation and mitigation of historical mining impacts on properties acquired by NOVAGOLD will be managed through the cooperative involvement of NOVAGOLD with previous owners, government agencies, and the community.
  • Striving to minimize releases to the air, land, or water, and ensure appropriate treatment and
    disposal of waste.
  • Allocation of the necessary resources to meet its reclamation and environmental obligations.
  • Continuous seeking of opportunities to improve its environmental performance through adherence
    to these principles.
  • Regular reporting of progress to its employees, shareholders, and the communities in which it operates.

Our Approach to the Environment

Donlin Gold is committed to safeguarding the subsistence culture dependent on the water and lands surrounding the project site, while also respecting the traditions of Alaska Native culture practiced by its employees and neighbors. To minimize environmental impacts, the Donlin Gold project site has implemented detailed operating and monitoring plans and policies, addressing various aspects such as safe drinking water; sanitary wastewater systems; stormwater management; spill prevention and control; fuel, oil, and hazardous materials management; wetlands protection; wildlife interactions; and more.

Our Approach to the Environment

During the 2023 field season, the camp accommodated 68 employees and contractors, contrasting with the future mine construction stage, which will necessitate around 2,000 year-round workers over several years. The production stage will require fewer employees but entails year-round extraction and processing activities that are energy- and water-intensive. As operations advance into the development and construction stages, environmental impacts will therefore change. As a result, it is important to consider year-to-year performance when evaluating certain metrics in this report, as performance may vary annually. The establishment of targets related to water use or carbon emissions reduction is challenging and generally inconsequential at this time due to the project’s developmental stage.

Environmental Programs

Conducting a comprehensive environmental baseline-study program since 1996 has been integral to NOVAGOLD’s and Donlin Gold’s commitment to responsible development and permitting. This ongoing initiative covers a spectrum of resources and topics, such as air quality, aquatic resources, geotechnical conditions, water quality and quantity, land use, public health, socioeconomics, sediment quality, subsistence, vegetation, wetlands, and wildlife. In tandem with collecting baseline scientific data, extensive dialogue with local communities and our Alaska Native Corporation partners has been maintained, incorporating traditional ecological knowledge about the local environment.

This wealth of information and many years of environmental baseline data have guided the location and design of the mine and associated infrastructure, aiming to avoid or minimize potential impacts to sensitive and culturally significant habitats. This information was incorporated into the Donlin Gold Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) in 2018, and ongoing studies continue to inform our understanding of baseline conditions, including Traditional Ecological Knowledge (“TEK”) as well as how the region is being affected by climate change, the project’s potential effects on climate change and its impacts on the project, with corresponding risks integrated into the design. The potential environmental effects of the proposed mine were thoroughly detailed and evaluated as part of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process, including climate change considerations and biodiversity analyses.

NOVAGOLD supports a project development plan for Donlin Gold that considers risks and opportunities throughout all phases, emphasizing exploration, development, operation, closure, and reclamation. The project design specifically ensures no uncontrolled discharge of mine-contacted water, utilizing it in the milling process or treating and discharging it according to stringent permit standards. Transporting supplies up the Kuskokwim River by barge during the open-water shipping season involves a detailed plan, developed with community input, to protect aquatic resources and minimize impacts on subsistence fishing activities. This includes plans for safe transport of fuel and chemicals such as cyanide that would be used in future mining operations.

A comprehensive tailings management plan, aligned with the Global Industry Standard for Tailings Management (GISTM) and Alaska’s Dam Safety Program is under development, featuring a fully lined facility and tailings storage dam constructed using the downstream method for enhanced stability and safety. Dry closure of the tailings storage facility is planned to significantly reduce long-term water management requirements.

Our Approach to the Environment

Mitigation measures for potential impacts on biodiversity are extensive and integrated into the project plan and permits. A reclamation and closure plan, already approved by the State of Alaska, ensures proper closure and land reclamation to a stable, healthy condition after mining ceases. The plan addresses specific revegetation requirements and limits long-term water management needs. Additionally, it includes measures to stabilize, contour, re-slope, and re-vegetate various portions of the site post-mining operations.

Consistent with leading practices, the reclamation plan was updated in 2023 for its regular five-year renewal by the State of Alaska1.The updated reclamation plan was reviewed by Calista and TKC prior to submittal to the State. Financial assurance, as required by state law, will be provided to ensure the implementation of the approved reclamation plan, in the event of any failure to complete the work as outlined. This is updated for each plan renewal.

Regional Environmental Initiatives

Beyond site activities, Donlin Gold actively participated in regional initiatives aimed at enhancing environmental conditions. Donlin Gold collaborated with the Native Village of Napaimute and Association of Village Council Presidents (AVCP) as the primary supporter of “In it for the Long Haul” backhaul program for the sixth straight year. This crucial initiative focuses on the collection, removal, and safe disposal of household hazardous and electronic wastes from villages across the Y-K region, effectively minimizing the adverse impacts from landfills, decreasing waste volumes in landfills and waterways. The program achieved noteworthy new milestones in the latest year, including waste removal from fish camps in the Middle Kuskokwim and the commencement of waste backhaul operations along the Yukon River. In total, this year’s program successfully collected and disposed of approximately 235,000 pounds of waste.

Donlin Gold also extended its support to 52 villages as part of the annual Clean-up Green-up program. This initiative targets the collection and proper disposal of trash from the tundra, roads, public areas, and beaches in the Y-K region that accumulates over the winter months.

1 The updated plan approval was scheduled to be issued by the State in 2024 but this is now scheduled for 2025; the existing approval has been administratively extended until this occurs.

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