A proposed gold mine in Alaska is moving closer to becoming a reality with the release of an environmental impact statement. Barrick Gold and NovaGold Resources have proposed the gold mine in the southwestern part of the state. If approved, it will be one of the largest economic development projects in the region.

The project is operated by Donlin Gold, which is equally owned by Barrick Gold and NovaGold Resources, both Canadian companies. The land belongs to The Kuskokwim Corp., a for-profit corporation that represents 10 villages, and Calista Corp., an Alaska native corporation for the Yukon-Kuskokwim region that holds the mineral rights for the site.

The mine will be located north of the village of Crooked Creek and approximately 10 miles from the Kuskokwim River. It is estimated that the deposit contains over 33 million ounces of gold. After the permits are received, construction of the mine will take three to four years. The open pit mine is expected to have a 27-year life.

NovaGold’s president and CEO, Greg Lang, believes the project will bring economic stimulus to the region, create jobs, and lead to social and community development. He said it will also create a unique incentive for people to return to the region and generate economic growth in a way that is consistent with traditional ways of life.

The release of the environmental impact statement is considered a permitting milestone in the project. The EIS was required by the National Environmental Policy Act to document the expected impacts of the project. It was prepared by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies, which worked in collaboration with tribes in the area.

The public will be able to comment on the EIS at public meetings that will be held next year and to submit written comments through April 30. The final EIS will be completed in 2017.