A green debate

Ottawa dismisses American environmentalists’ complaint against Canadian gold-copper project

by Peter Caulfield
People are gathered in a circle discussing work at a Seabridge Gold mine on the top of a mountain.

— Photo courtesy Seabridge Gold

Canada’s National Contact Point (NCP) announced recently that the complaint it had received regarding the environmental assessment review process by Seabridge Gold Inc. for the company’s KSM project in northwestern British Columbia did not merit further examination.

The NCP, a federal government body, was responding to allegations by the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC), an American environmental non-profit organization.

In a December 2016 Request for Review (complaint) to the NCP, SEACC claimed that Seabridge had excluded it and its membership from the decision-making and information-sharing processes for the KSM mine.

In its submission, SEACC said Seabridge “has not exercised due diligence to prevent, mitigate, and account for actual and potential environmental harms from the KSM (mine).

“The impacts threatened by upstream mines to the health and vitality of these trans-boundary river resources and the people who depend on them concerns SEACC. Mining operations of sulfide-rich deposits have high potential to produce acid mine drainage and toxic heavy metals and the potential for catastrophic dam failures, such as occurred at the Mount Polley mine.

“These outcomes threaten Alaska’s valuable salmon fisheries, tourism industry, and the customary and traditional practices of Alaska Native tribes, all of which SEACC’s members rely upon.”

In its November 2017 decision, however, the NCP said that Seabridge had disclosed all of its relevant studies and plans related to the environment; that Seabridge engaged with Alaskans “at multiple points” during the environmental assessment process, despite no legal requirement to do so; and that the federal and provincial environmental assessment review processes included examination of all potential negative impacts and identification of mitigation measures where needed.

“We’re very pleased with the decision,” said Brent Murphy, Seabridge's vice-president of environmental affairs. “It confirmed that our environmental assessments had been done with great rigour.”

KSM is a proposed gold-copper mine located 65 kilometres due north of Stewart, B.C. The project is entirely inside B.C., 30 kilometres from the Alaska border.

Murphy said KSM is Canada’s largest gold reserve and contains gold, silver, copper and molybdenum. When it enters production, KSM will be a combined open-pit and underground mine, with a proposed life of 52 to 53 years. KSM is in the advanced exploration/early-stage development phase.

“The next milestone will be identifying a joint venture partner who can take the project and turn it into an operating mine,” said Murphy. “Then it will move into full development.”

With headquarters in Toronto, Seabridge holds a 100-per cent interest in several North American gold resource projects. The company’s principal assets are the KSM and Snip gold properties in northwestern B.C. and the Courageous Lake gold project in the Northwest Territories.

For more information on the dispute and the decision, see this website.


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