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Sustainability

Community

NOVAGOLD is committed to respecting the history, culture, and customs of Indigenous communities who own, inhabit, or use lands on which the company operates. We respect the social, economic, and cultural rights of local and Indigenous people, strive to communicate with communities, stakeholders, and shareholders in an accurate and transparent manner, and endeavor to share success through partnerships with stakeholders in community development programs.

Donlin Gold promotes economic self-reliance among Native communities through employment opportunities, business enterprise support, economic diversification, maintenance of subsistence lifestyles, and preferential contract consideration for Native-owned suppliers. As noted above, these are consistent with the specific Native employment and contracting requirements included in our life-of-mine agreements with Calista and TKC. As the project progresses, Donlin Gold will continue to focus on developing programs that benefit local communities, including improved infrastructure, support for education and health services, cultural heritage preservation, employment and business opportunities, income from royalty streams and compensation payments, and environmental restoration and protection. Donlin Gold supports applicable principles and commitments in the International Council on Mining & Metals Position Statement on Mining and Indigenous Peoples, which promotes constructive relationships between the mining and metals industry and Indigenous people based on respect, meaningful engagement, and mutual benefit.

NOVAGOLD and its project partners are committed to preserving traditional lifestyles and providing economic opportunities to communities throughout the Y-K region, whose political and social structure is represented by a diverse group of social, business, and governmental entities. Relationships between these entities are often complex and influenced by competing political and economic interests. Calista, TKC, and a variety of other Alaska Native business entities and associations have an interest in the Donlin Gold project and its potential impact on the region. Engaging with communities in a respectful and culturally sensitive manner while developing long-term, mutually beneficial relationships has been our approach since the early exploration of the Donlin Gold project – and will continue throughout the life cycle of the project.

Figure 1 - Community Statistics

In 2020, we supported Donlin Gold as it continued a multi-decade collaboration on community development programs with Native Corporation partners. These programs throughout the region benefit education, community wellness, cultural preservation, and environmental stewardship. Donlin Gold supports a wide range of organizations and causes, from youth sports to scholarships to search and rescue.

The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in Alaska deepened these strong relationships while introducing the Donlin Gold community relations team to new – and primarily virtual – collaborations with villages in the Y-K region. Donlin Gold had more than 320 contacts with key individual stakeholders and community organizations in 2020, twice the usual number of contact events made in previous years, with most communication occurring by telephone or video conference. Donlin Gold was able to reach out to communities and Tribes multiple times during 2020, including many they had not connected with in prior years. Usual stakeholder engagement involves regular in-person meetings with key community leaders, community group update presentations, program development consultation, responding to environmental issues, and education and assistance with health and safety matters. From regular engagement with tribal councils to seeking partnerships with new parties, Donlin Gold was able to stay connected to advance key activities and projects throughout the region. Donlin Gold is guided in its approach by a detailed stakeholder engagement plan that uses stakeholder identification and looks at their level of responsibility, influence, proximity, dependency, and representation in the project region. As part of ongoing stakeholder mapping, organizations and individuals are categorized as low- or high-influence as well as low- or high-impact in their relationship to the project. In addition, stakeholder surveys are regularly conducted in Alaska to uncover information or identify communication gaps and provide perception mapping of the project. An example of this is Calista’s 2020 media campaign “Truly Our Project,” which communicated that the Donlin Gold project is located on Calista land – something surveys had indicated most Calista shareholders were not aware of.

Figure 2 - Community NOVAGOLD and its project partners are committed to preserving traditional lifestyles and providing economic opportunities to communities throughout the Y-K region.

Donlin Gold works hard to address all concerns raised by residents of the Y-K region through its ongoing stakeholder engagement efforts. Community concerns or complaints may be conveyed in-person or by telephone with one of the community development or community relations personnel, or submitted through an anonymous online contact form. There were no grievances related to human rights (or any topic) filed in 2020, and there were no unresolved complaints outstanding at the end of the previous year. Still, Y-K region stakeholders regularly request information or share topics of concern with community relations staff, including employment opportunities, timing of project development, and increased health and safety protocols related to COVID-19.

Donlin Gold’s multi-decade collaboration on community development programs with Native Corporation partners is one aspect of the stakeholder outreach program. Another is the sponsorship of local events and participants. The Kuskokwim 300 is considered to be the premiere mid-distance dog sled race in the world, covering a 300-mile trail stretching from Bethel across tundra and the Kuskokwim River to Aniak upriver and back. It is a popular regional event that is supported through community investment funding by Donlin Gold. In January 2020, prior to the arrival of COVID-19 in Alaska, Pete Kaiser, a Donlin Gold-sponsored musher and 2019 Iditarod sled dog race champion, won the Kuskokwim 300. Kaiser was born and raised in Bethel and is the first Yup’ik musher and the fifth Alaska Native to win an Iditarod championship. He takes a leadership role in speaking with youth in the community about suicide prevention and his musher coat has a stitched-on patch that states “Suicide is never the answer.” Suicide is the second leading cause of death in the United States among individuals between the ages of 10 and 34. Based on CDC 2019 data, Alaska has the second-highest suicide rate of any state, with suicide being the leading cause of death among Alaska youth over the age of 15.

Donlin Gold also sponsored four Iron Dog teams for the annual snowmobile race in February. The Iron Dog is the world’s longest snowmobile race and covers more than 2,600 miles as it traverses the Alaskan backcountry. These races are traditions in the region and receive much local support, international media coverage, and fans along the route and at each checkpoint.

Following the temporary closure of the project camp due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, Donlin Gold donated thousands of pounds of food to shelters and to every home in eight Middle Kuskokwim villages. Additional support of communities during the pandemic was the result of partnering with the Campfire Organization, the Association of Village Council Presidents, and the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation to fund Elder and youth meals throughout the summer – serving 22 communities, 4,189 individuals, and a total of 34,000 meals to Elders and youth in the region. In addition, 260 boxes of fresh produce were distributed to 56 villages.

Donlin Gold is also supporting TKC in a local community development project to improve energy efficiency and develop reliable energy generation in all villages in the Middle Kuskokwim region. Other ongoing initiatives include providing online activities and programs for youth and Elders, strengthening sponsorships with investments in the First Alaskans Institute at the 2020 Elders & Youth Statewide conference and the Alaska Federation of Natives annual convention.

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