In the second quarter, NOVAGOLD progressed as planned with all of its permitting activities at the Donlin Gold project and launched the 2013 exploration program at the Galore Creek project. After Donlin Gold's completion of the public scoping period last March, which consisted of important meetings held in 13 villages and Anchorage, the Corps commenced work on the Preliminary Draft Environmental Impact Statement (PDEIS). In keeping with its commitment to best practices, Donlin Gold held a number of meetings with the Corps and cooperating agencies to provide an overview of the core components of the extensive environmental and social baseline data submitted to the Corps and the alternative project designs considered in preparing the proposed project. These meetings establish strong working relationships with the agencies to ensure that the EIS and permitting processes will be successfully completed on schedule. Donlin Gold also enjoys the strong support of the Calista Corporation and The Kuskokwim Corporation, the two Alaska Native Corporations that are the project's principal stakeholders, and its surrounding communities, all a testament to the excellent work and extensive community outreach that have been conducted since the project's inception. Permitting, which commenced one year ago, is expected to take 2 to 3 more years to complete. Our timeline is more conservative than the Corps' permitting timeline and we are currently on schedule. Having completed several projects in the United States similar in size and scale to Donlin Gold, I am encouraged by the progress to date on permitting and believe that we will make headway on enhancing the project's return.
In the second quarter, we commenced the 2013 exploration season at Galore Creek, a 10,000-meter drill program to define the extent of the new Legacy mineralization, a 700-meter long zone adjacent to the Central pit, and assess its impact on future mine design. During the quarter, we also continued work on updating the resource model with the 2012 drill results and remain on track to update Galore Creek's resources in the third quarter and further improve the overall economics of this project. If developed as envisioned in the pre-feasibility study, Galore Creek is expected to become the largest and lowest-cost copper mine in Canada. This factor is particularly important considering the critical challenges copper miners face today in jurisdictions such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Argentina, Mongolia, Chile and Peru. Setting aside ongoing activities at Galore Creek and the tremendous value this asset offers, at this time, we will continue to pursue opportunities to sell our 50% interest in the project following our strategy to become a pure gold company focused on Donlin Gold.
NOVAGOLD reduced its debt by approximately US$73 million in the second quarter and maintains a strong balance sheet with approximately US$215 million in cash and cash equivalents at May 31, 2013. The Company has US$22 million in debt of the principal amount remaining that is due in May 2015. We believe that our cash balance is more than sufficient to fulfill all of the Company's current financial obligations including funding the advancement of the Donlin Gold project through the permitting process and support ongoing activities at its Galore Creek project.
Over the last few months, there has been a lot of discussion about the current 'downturn' in the price of gold. As management of a company which is developing an asset whose life is expected to be measured in decades and potential value in billions of dollars, we view the current phenomenon as a short-term swing in a well-established multi-decade secular bull market in gold. Great mines easily absorb these swings during their long lives of operation. They also benefit from price upswings, which places Donlin Gold, with its projected life-of-mine average cash cost of less than $600 per ounce, in the unique category of assets positioned to deliver substantial value to all of its stakeholders for many years to come. We view Donlin Gold through the prism of such generational value-building family of mines as Goldstrike and Cortez in Nevada and Hemlo in Ontario. For those of us who have had the privilege of either building or operating these great mines, all located in safe geo-political jurisdictions, the notion of delivering significant shareholder value by developing a long-life world-class mine such as Donlin Gold is real and achievable.
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