Donlin Gold Community Development and Sustainability Coordinator
Vernon Chimegalrea holds a degree in Linguistics with an emphasis in Eskimo languages from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. As Donlin Gold’s Community Development and Sustainability Coordinator, Vernon’s position allows for clear communication between the company and the people of the YK Delta. When Vernon was asked about making his decision to join the Donlin Gold team, he replied, “I had thought about working in the industry and after researching best management mining practices in today’s industry, I figured it would be a positive move to work for Donlin Gold.”
Vernon’s family roots are from Napakiak and he was raised in Bethel. He worked at a number of nonprofit organizations before making his way to Donlin Gold. In his current position, he shares information in both Yup’ik and English about the Donlin Gold Project.
“The important aspect was working with my Region and being able to inform our people about the project in our Yup’ik language,” said Vernon. “That was something I looked forward to advancing, as the Yup’ik language is three-dimensional and it is important to convey mining terminology properly, especially to Elders whose primary language is the Yup’ik language.”
Vernon holds community meetings about the proposed Donlin Gold mine in many villages within the Calista Region to provide details and to answer questions about the project. Vernon gives each community the opportunity to hear the presentation in Yup’ik or English. He says it’s helpful for people whose first language is Yup’ik to hear about the project in their native language because it can be difficult to understand technical terms. “A lot of people come up to me and say, ‘thank you for letting me understand that completely,’ ” said Vernon.
Vernon says Donlin Gold is the only mining company he knows of that makes the extra effort to communicate with people in the area of the proposed mine in their Native language. A glossary of popular mining terms has been translated into Yup’ik, as well as a project summary and a 10-minute project video overview. Vernon says Donlin Gold is taking these steps because the company wants people in the Calista Region to know its commitment to the Region. Vernon enjoys his role in speaking with people about the proposed project, as someone with strong ties to the Region; Vernon appreciates answering questions and sharing facts with people about environmental concerns.
“My family is still involved in hunting, fishing and harvesting from the land, just like everybody else,” said Vernon. “I believe that being able to let them know about the project in their Native language builds trust.”
With the project moving forward in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement public comment period, Vernon wants to encourage people to begin to get workforce ready. Vernon is a prime example of the varying careers available at the potential mine and says he wants to see the project bring benefits to the Calista Region.
“Knowing that I care about the environment and the place that I come from, it’s reassuring to them.”