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NOVAGOLD recognizes environmental management
as a corporate priority. Our employees, as well as Donlin
Gold employees and contractors, care about preserving the environment for future generations while also providing for safe, responsible, and profitable operations for the benefit of employees, shareholders, and communities. We set and maintain standards
of excellence for environmental performance at all our office and project locations. In this regard, the NOVAGOLD environmental policy sets out a statement of principles for all stages of a project: exploration, development, operation, and closure. Part of this commitment means preserving the local community’s way of
life: Donlin Gold is dedicated to protecting subsistence rights on the waters and lands that surround the project and honoring the traditions of Alaska Native culture practiced by our employees
and neighbors.
NOVAGOLD’s current environmental performance relates almost entirely to activities at the Donlin Gold project. It is our
duty to support a project development plan that considers full life-of-mine risks and opportunities – from exploration through
to construction, operation, and finally closure and reclamation. Dialogue with local communities and our Alaska Native partners, who offered generations of traditional knowledge about the
local environment, began early in the project’s history. Donlin
Gold used this information to help guide the location, layout, and design of the project infrastructure to avoid sensitive and culturally important habitats and landscapes; this information was included in the Donlin Gold Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), with project adjustments informed by engagement with Y-K region stakeholders.
An extensive environmental baseline-study program has
been ongoing since 1996 to provide a foundation for responsible development. Resources and topics in the baseline-study program include air quality, fish and other aquatic resources, geotechnical conditions, hydrology/ground and surface water quality and quantity, land use, mercury, public health, socioeconomics, sediment quality, subsistence, vegetation, wetlands, and wildlife. Data from these studies have been used in the planning and design of the mine, and to establish environmental conditions prior to project development. All of this data has been submitted to regulatory agencies as part of the FEIS and permitting processes.
The Donlin Gold project team has been collecting background data for a fish protection plan with the understanding that protecting fish starts with protecting water. The project has been designed for no uncontrolled discharge of mine-contacted water.
Any water that comes in contact with mine facilities would be
used in the milling process to the maximum extent practicable or treated and discharged according to stringent permit standards. Also of importance to stakeholders is the traffic plan for the river barges needed to transport fuel and other supplies to the site. Many of these materials will be transported up the Kuskokwim River during the open water shipping season, between June and October. Following completion of geotechnical and planning work, a comprehensive tailings management plan will be finalized. Donlin Gold is committed to the design, construction, operation, and closure of a tailings storage facility that will meet the requirements of the Global Industry Standard for Tailings Management as well
as exceed design specifications of the State of Alaska’s Dam Safety Program. The Donlin Gold tailings storage facility will be fully lined, and the main dam will be constructed using the Downstream Method,1 globally considered to be the most stable design for tailings storage.
The potential environmental effects of the proposed mine project were detailed and evaluated as part of the National Environmental Policy Act process. The FEIS was issued in August 2018 and not only includes the potential effects of the project on climate change, but also the potential effects of climate change
on the project itself; these risks are considered and have been incorporated in the project design. The effects of climate change, including the impacts of extreme weather conditions and melting permafrost, are incorporated into all permitting submissions, as well as design engineering and operational and closure planning. Further, the FEIS considered biodiversity by evaluating in detail the potential project effects on local, regional, and statewide flora and fauna populations, including important and sensitive species. The analysis specifically addressed how the ecosystem may change over time due to climate change. The project plan and permits include extensive biodiversity monitoring and mitigation requirements that will be fully implemented as Donlin Gold moves to project construction and operation. Finally, a reclamation and closure
plan for the proposed mine project has already been developed and approved by the State of Alaska to ensure that, when mining activity ceases, the mine is closed, and the land is reclaimed and restored. As required by state law and consistent with leading practice, this plan will be reviewed and updated periodically throughout operations.
See more information about different tailings storage facility designs at environment/tailings-management-plan/.

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