Barrick, NovaGold project in Alaska a step closer to becoming the region’s largest development

Barrick, Novagold project in Alaska a step closer to becoming the region’s largest development

Image courtesy of the Donlin Gold Working Group (DGWG).

Barrick Gold (TSX, NYSE:ABX) and NovaGold Resources’ (TSX, NYSE-MKT: NG) proposed gold mine for Alaska, the second largest bullion producing state in the U.S., moved a step forward Monday with the release of a key federal environmental review.

Considered by the companies as a “permitting milestone” for their Donlin gold project — one of the largest economic development project in Southwest Alaska is approved —, the document is now available to the public for review and comment, the firms said in a joint statement.

The project is operated by Donlin Gold, which is owned equally by the two Canadian companies. The land, however, belongs by The Kuskokwim Corp., a for-profit corporation representing 10 villages, and Calista Corp., the Alaska Native corporation for the Yukon-Kuskokwim region, which owns the mineral rights.

“Donlin Gold’s significant resource remains a great asset to Barrick,” said Barrick’s President Kelvin Dushnisky. “We are confident that the Donlin Gold LLC team in partnership with Calista and the TKC are advancing the permitting process expeditiously and with due consideration for all stakeholders”

NovaGold’s President and Chief Executive, Greg Lang, noted that the project would bring opportunities for economic stimulus, job creation, as well as social and community development.

“More importantly, the project could create unique incentive for people to return to their region by generating economic growth that is consistent with traditional ways of life,” Lang said.

Barrick, Novagold project in Alaska a step closer to becoming the region’s largest development

(Click on map to enlarge)

The draft of Donlin’s Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) was prepared by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies, in collaboration with tribes, to document anticipated impacts of such a big project, as required under the National Environmental Policy Act.

The public will get an opportunity to comment on the review at public meetings next year and by sending in written comments through April 30. The final EIS, which will guide agencies and the developers, won’t be complete until 2017.

It is estimated that the Donlin deposit holds more than 33 million ounces of gold, which would be extracted over the expected 27-year operating life of the open pit mine.

Construction of the mine, north of the small village of Crooked Creek and about 10 miles (16 km) from the Kuskokwim River, will take three to four years once permits have been received.