The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is still reviewing a gold mining project proposed by IPOP LLC, the mining company associated with Rivers of Gold, from last year. But as of February 1st, the company submitted another permit application to the Corps for review.
Tiffany Kwakwa, the IPOP project manager with the Army Corps, says the agency has not yet determined the full scope of this new permit from IPOP.
“I think since we just received that application, we’re still in the process of determining whether the information they submitted is complete, and from there we’ll figure out the next steps and the appropriate permitting path moving forward.”– Tiffany Kwaka
Along with this new proposal from IPOP, the company also submitted a Nationwide Permit (NWP) application to the Corps in November asking to expand its existing survey work. IPOP had previously been authorized to conduct limited surveying in the Bonanza Channel by May, 2020. The U.S. Army Corps is still processing IPOP’s request to expand it coring operations in the Bonanza Channel.
In addition, the Corps is still evaluating the existing proposal from IPOP which would involve a gold mining project in the Safety Sound area. That permit application garnered about 350 public comments in the fall of 2020. According to the Corps, any that required a response from IPOP were given to the company on January 8th, 2021.
Kwakwa says there were comments submitted both in favor and against the IPOP project.
“Many comments that we received touched upon community concerns with impacts to subsistence resources and access, the eco-tourism industry, specifically bird watching, and comments of support for the economic benefit [of the project]. We will use all of the comments received to inform the decision-making process within applicable laws and regulations of our authorities, Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act.”– Tiffany Kwaka
Before the Corps can make a final decision on IPOP’s permit application, they require information needed to, “initiate Endangered Species Act (ESA) and Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) consultations.”
According to the Corps, IPOP had until yesterday to submit that information. Ellen Lyons, the Northcentral Chief in Alaska, says if the gold mining company meets that deadline then that will help determine the next steps in the review process.
“We will see what is submitted to us on February 7th. We’re also in the process of reviewing the new application. And once we’ve had the chance to fully review all of that information, then we’ll be able to make a decision as to how we move forward from there. So unfortunately, I can’t really tell you exactly what’s going to happen at this point, there’s too much up in the air.”– Ellen Lyons
Lyons says this new permit application could potentially warrant a new public notice and comment period, but it is too early to say.
Again, as of today, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has not made a final decision on whether to allow IPOP to mine for gold in the Bonanza Channel and Safety Sound area. The Corps says they will continue government-to-government consultation with tribes as the review process continues for this application and the newest IPOP proposal.
Image at top: A gold plan full of flakes, forming a River of Gold. Photo from public domain via Flickr.