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In that regard, let me add this: Camaraderie matters. And so do honor and fidelity. As seen from our inaugural formal sustainability summary enclosed in this annual report, every single partner is committed to the highest standards of sustainability. This is not
a new phenomenon. To us, environment, social, and governance (ESG) is not a revelation. It has been a way of life for 20 years. We never would have made it this far were that not the case. Donlin presents one of the longest and most extensive environmental baseline studies of any gold-mining project in history. As our Native Corporation partners can attest, we talk the talk and we walk the walk. Now that it is fashionable to discuss more fully one’s track record for doing it right in sustainable development, we are raising our hands – without fanfare but with great confidence. The truth
is, our owners can take supreme comfort in NOVAGOLD’s pedigree in this particular area, as the board and management simply don’t know how to do anything other than through best practices.
Our reward for this devotion to first principles, should one wish to get a little metaphysical about it, is that the deposit itself showed it was a gift that keeps on giving. That the drilling was completed (with even more holes than planned) was astonishing enough; that the results themselves were better than expected was icing on the cake. There is a reason why assay labs are referred to in our business as “the house of heartbreak.” Yet in an industry more often characterized by declining grades and disappointments, Donlin proved the contrary. Once again, it delivered higher-grade results than the modeled projections – a blessing that few gold- mining projects can claim. From literally all standpoints, the mettle and metal displayed at Donlin this past year was awesome.
Not all of the year was as sweet, but we got through the
bitter part really well – and then some. In terms of management’s resilience and integrity, we experienced what might be called
our finest hour when NOVAGOLD was subjected to what we comfortably assert was a blatant manipulation of our stock price, designed to blunt our momentum for the benefit of short sellers who conspired to carry out a short-and-distort scheme and/or needed an exit when it looked like they might get squeezed as our shares approached decade highs. I won’t dwell on that subject, as we are currently pursuing justice through the courts against the misbenighted tip of the spear for that duplicity. Discretion is the better part of valor. What is so astonishing to me about this case
is the sheer volume of the defamation that was required for it to accomplish its task. Suffice it to say, the net result of the experience was that our shareholder support was exemplary. These investors include the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, renowned as one of the world’s savviest sovereign wealth funds. They liked what they saw and acted with gusto in the marketplace.
* Represents average grade of measured and indicated mineral resources, inclusive of mineral reserves. See “Cautionary Note Concerning Reserve & Resource Estimates” and “Mineral Reserves & Mineral Resources” and associated information on page 50. † 2020 average grade of open-pit and underground deposits with gold as primary commodity and over 1Moz in measured and indicated resources, sourced from S&P Global Market Intelligence.
We welcome their participation in our story, as we do the two additional Arabian Gulf sovereign wealth funds that already have long-term exposure to NOVAGOLD via their holdings in The Electrum Group. Having such value-added investors cheering on Donlin is of true benefit to our shareholders, and I am grateful to them all for wanting to see one of the largest gold mines in the world built when we and Barrick are ready to roll.
I have often been called an activist in both my for- and non-profit lives and acknowledge that being a promoter of great causes and even greater assets, if they are genuinely Tier One,1 is a real honor. Big cats, Rembrandt, gold (and in the latter, especially Donlin)...they’re all of a piece: beautiful, meaningful, uniquely iconic within their own specific ecosystems – and irreplaceable. If I am a promoter of such things, then promoter I shall be. At least in each instance, in addition to capital, I also contribute my passion and my most preciously held commodity: time. I have skin in the game, and my heart as well. For money is not my be-all and end-all. Death shrouds, as they say, have no pockets and my interests are effectively intertwined. Indeed, David Macdonald, the professor
of zoology who founded WildCRU, Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, paid me the highest compliment when he said that “while many are trying to turn tigers into gold, Tom is trying to turn gold into tigers.” If you want to know what makes me tick, that about sums it up. With that passion driving me on, not
for nothing am I sometimes called “the owner who lives above the store.” In my book, that’s more of a privilege than a responsibility. For as I often say, “It doesn’t take a genius to buy Rembrandt; it
1 NOVAGOLD defines a Tier One gold development project as one with a projected production life of at least 10 years, annual projected production of at least 500,000 ounces of gold, and average projected cash costs over the production life that are in the lower half of the industry cost curve.
 Donlin Gold average grade*
 world average grade†

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