BETHEL — The company behind a massive open-pit gold mine proposed in western Alaska has signed an agreement to protect some wetlands in the Cook Inlet area.
The Donlin Gold Mine planned for the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta region would disturb about 2,800 acres of wetlands if built, Alaska’s Energy Desk reported this week.
Donlin is required to protect wetlands elsewhere because it will not be able to restore all wetlands at its site. It reached an agreement with the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority, which manages a trust that includes 1,000,000 acres of state land.
"Basically what this does — we purchase the conservation easement on a portion of the Chuitna River, I think we're talking 2,000 acres, so that restricts its use from any kind of development so it protects that habitat," said Kurt Parkan, a spokesman for Donlin.
Under the agreement, Donlin has agreed to pay $200,000 to the trust and additional money each year for 10 years, giving the company time to decide if it will go through with the mine. If the project moves forward, Donlin will pay $1.3 million to the Trust to protect the 2,000 acres for 99 years.
"Donlin hasn't actually purchased the whole deed restriction yet," said Wyn Menefee, director of the trust's land office. "They've purchased an option for purchasing a deed restriction, so essentially what we've done is we've said we will keep that available for you."
Donlin is planning similar agreements with other organizations.