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Alaska official backs key approval for proposed gold mine

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — A proposed gold mine in western Alaska has won a key approval, with a state official rejecting an administrative law judge’s findings that the state Department of Environmental Conservation lacked “reasonable assurance” the project would meet Alaska water quality standards.

Department Commissioner Jason Brune, in a decision Thursday, defended the analyses done by the department’s Division of Water and upheld its issuance of a so-called certificate of reasonable assurance for the Donlin Gold project. Brune said the issuance was supported by “a reasonable basis in law and substantial evidence in the record.”

Brune’s decision can be challenged in court.

Olivia Glasscock, an attorney with Earthjustice who is representing the Orutsararmiut Native Council, said Friday that a decision on next steps had not been made. The council had challenged the issuance of the certificate, leading to the findings by an administrative law judge in the council’s favor last month.

Brune was not bound by those findings.

Donlin Gold, in a statement, cited the scientific work that’s been done surrounding the project and said it would not operate “without demonstrated compliance with the State’s water quality standards.”

The company said it commended the department “for standing up for responsible natural resources development which benefits all Alaskans.”

Becky Bohrer, The Associated Press