NOVAGOLD Reports ‘A Banner Quarter for Donlin Gold’
By Gregory A. Lang, NOVAGOLD President & CEO
The third quarter of 2020 may one day be seen as a game-changer in terms of the global recognition of the Donlin Gold project.
From receipt of encouraging early drill results to Donlin Gold’s rising profile within Barrick’s project pipeline, we are extremely pleased with this series of developments. The recent progress comes at a time when appreciation of Donlin Gold’s attributes can only be heightened by Berkshire Hathaway’s investment into Barrick itself—and the increased scrutiny of Barrick’s portfolio that will ensue as more and more generalists follow its lead—constitutes an additional stroke of good fortune for NOVAGOLD.
Building that Brand from the Ground Up
In August 2020, NOVAGOLD and its Donlin Gold partner, Barrick, reported on the initial set of assays from the planned 80-hole 22,000-meter 2020 drill program, the largest such program at Donlin Gold in twelve years. The work was carried out safely despite the COVID-19 pandemic which impacted activities on the ground and affected communities in which we operate. Nevertheless, the finalization of planned drilling in September, whereby we completed a total of 85 core holes encompassing approximately 23,400 meters, can only be viewed as a significant achievement for everyone associated with the project. Since we were ahead of schedule with equipment and crews available at site, additional holes were completed to increase definition in an area of interest. As COVID-19 positive cases rose in Alaska over the summer, Donlin Gold’s strict adherence to stringent safety measures and on-the-ground support systems allowed us to safely operate four drill rigs throughout the quarter—making up for the two months of pandemic-related downtime sustained earlier in the year. I commend the Donlin Gold, NOVAGOLD and Barrick teams for completing this work on schedule while adhering to extra stringent safety protocols, a truly remarkable operational milestone.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to pay particularly close attention to health and safety procedures for all employees, contractors, partners, as well as members of the community where we operate. To reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19, NOVAGOLD implemented policies in its Vancouver and Salt Lake City offices whereby employees work from home, avoid non-essential business travel, adhere to rigorous hygiene practices and engage in social distancing. Additionally, NOVAGOLD and its partner Barrick have implemented health and safety policies aligned with the State of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services recommendations at Donlin Gold’s Anchorage office and imposed travel restrictions and other COVID-19-related measures aimed at protecting the health and safety of all project contractors, employees, and community personnel.
This protocol, which remains in place, includes requesting all personnel to monitor their health and consult health professionals if feeling any symptoms of illness; requires all personnel to take a COVID-19 test with a negative result before coming into the camp; implements more frequent sanitization practices; and requires attendance at safety meetings designed to reinforce sound hygiene and sanitization practices. Out-of-state contractors and employees require two negative COVID-19 tests prior to going to camp. Donlin Gold uses charter flights to transport personnel to and from the site. Employees are screened for symptoms and maintain a minimum of six feet of distance in eating areas and living quarters. Should any individual exhibit symptoms of illness, they would be evaluated and, if needed, isolated, and/or evacuated from the camp.
Become an Industry Sponsor
Calista and TKC have been Donlin Gold’s Native Corporation partners in the project since the early 1990s and, like Barrick, share our vision of building value for the future generations of stakeholders through education and critical skills development. The Company seeks to bring tangible, long-lasting benefits to the community in the form of training and employment opportunities, service business contracts, and participation agreements as the project advances toward development. Since approximately 80% of Donlin Gold’s direct hires are Alaska Natives, prior to re-opening the camp and re-mobilizing the drill rigs in late May, Donlin Gold held numerous conversations with community and tribal leaders in the Y-K region to ensure strict adherence to safety protocols at Donlin Gold. With health and safety measures in place, employees were particularly enthusiastic to return to work at Donlin Gold to mitigate the economic strain caused by the pandemic.
Our initial drill results that were issued by Donlin Gold on August 6, 2020 reflected that enthusiasm. As featured above in the highlights’ section of the release, these significant distinct high-grade intervals were intercepted in multiple areas, including excellent intervals near surface:
- DC20-1871 intersected 41.91 m grading 11.61 g/t gold, starting at 30.35 m drilled depth;
- DC20-1866 intersected 45.91 m grading 5.03 g/t gold, starting at 35.39 m drilled depth; 23.36 m grading 4.15 g/t gold, starting at 108.30 m drilled depth; and 30.28 m grading 4.20 g/t gold, starting at 226.53 m drilled depth; and,
- DC20-1873 intersected 7.66 m grading 18.40 g/t gold, starting at 60.88 m drilled depth.
Additional assay results will be reported once available. As more drill results are received, our understanding of the orebody and potential extensions of high-grade zones will improve. Once core logging and assaying is complete, the newly obtained data should lead the partners to determine the next steps to update the Donlin Gold feasibility study and initiate the engineering work necessary to advance the project design before reaching a construction decision.
During the third quarter, Donlin Gold and its Native Corporation partners continued to support the State of Alaska to advance permits and certificates needed for the project. While the field work related to the issuance of the Alaska Dam Safety certificates was temporarily paused to concentrate on the 2020 drill program, the overall critical path for securing much of the state permitting for Donlin Gold has not been affected by the pandemic.
Key federal permitting milestones completed include the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and the first-ever Joint Record of Decision (ROD) by the US Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Land Management. Notable State permits and approvals received to-date include the Air Quality permit, the Alaska State Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit, and the Reclamation Plan and Waste Management permit. State Land Leases, Easements, and Land Use permits, and material site authorizations for the proposed transportation facilities including the access road, airstrip, and upriver Jungjuk port as well as the easement for the fiber optic cable on State lands were issued in early 2020.
ADNR’s Division of Oil and Gas issued the final ROW lease for the buried natural gas pipeline on January 17, 2020. On March 19, 2020, Earthjustice, representing ONC, Chevak Native Village, Chuloonawick Native Village, Native Village of Eek, and Cook Inletkeeper, filed an appeal of the denial of the ROW lease issuance reconsideration request in the Superior Court of the State of Alaska at Anchorage (“Alaska Superior Court”). On April 30, 2020, ADNR agreed to reconsider the decision to issue the ROW lease in accordance with the February 6, 2020 request made by Cook Inletkeeper. The reconsideration is specifically addressing additional analysis of cumulative effects.
In response, the appeal filed in the Alaska Superior Court was dismissed without prejudice on May 20, 2020. ADNR issued a revised Consideration of Comments document for further public comment on September 10, 2020. This document specifically addresses in detail how cumulative effects are considered in the ROW decision. The comment period ends on November 9, 2020. Donlin Gold supported the State’s decision to complete this work and we expect that the final ROW lease authorization offer will be reissued by ADNR in early 2021.
NOVAGOLD President and CEO Gregory A. Lang has more than thirty-five years of diverse experience in mine operations, project development, and evaluations.
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