BETHEL, Alaska (AP) — Donlin Gold announced plans to restart its drilling program as the state loosens coronavirus restrictions.

The mining company said the current drilling program is its biggest in 12 years, but operations were suspended in March as the state issued health restrictions on travel and mandated quarantines of out-of-state workers, Alaska’s Energy Desk reported Monday.

Donlin announced summer plans to rotate 60 people in two crews, working three weeks on and then three weeks off.

The company said it will require employees to take coronavirus screening tests before arriving at the mine and again when they leave.

In addition to screening, the company expects to use charter flights to transport workers to and from the mine and require workers to maintain six feet (1.8 meters) of distance in eating areas and living quarters.

The company hopes to build one of the biggest gold mines in the world, and recently began drilling for samples to expand the mine’s operating life.


After the completing construction of the mine, company officials believe the production could last 27 years or longer depending on the size of the deposit.

Donlin Gold spokesperson Kristina Woolston said the company continues to hire employees. As part of its lease agreement with two Alaska Native Regional Corporations that own the land and mineral rights, Donlin must prioritize shareholder hires.

Donlin has not provided precise figures of the number of people arriving from outside the region to work at its mining camps.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.