Barrick Gold and NovaGold Resources received a record of decision and multiple permits for their joint-venture Donlin gold project in Alaska on Monday.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a record of decision, which completes the National Environmental Policy process, and two water permits for Donlin’s water management plan. It also approved the right of way for a natural gas pipeline necessary to service the remote location.

The proposed open pit project, located about 440 kilometres northwest of Anchorage, has proven mineral reserves of eight million tonnes at 2.32 grams per tonne (g/t) gold, probable reserves of 497 million tonnes at 2.08 g/t gold, and an expected 27-year lifespan.

The decision comes four months after the army corps released a positive environmental assessment, despite the concerns of environmental activists, who have said Donlin is expected to cause an increase in mercury levels in local waterways. The army corps said the 2.5 per cent increase is within federal regulations.


“The permitting process for the project was very comprehensive and thorough,” said NovaGold CEO Greg Lang. “At various stages of this multi-year undertaking, all stakeholders had multiple opportunities to engage and make meaningful contributions to the final outcome.”

The project has been in development since 2007. It also still requires several state and federal permits before construction can begin, and Barrick and NovaGold said they plan to update a 2011 feasibility study.

The project is estimated to cost about US$6.7 billion to build, according to the 2011 study. NovaGold sold its interest in the Galore Creek copper-gold-silver project in July, citing a desire to improve its balance sheet, and said it would invest the proceeds of the US$275-million deal into Donlin.