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Canadian Feds give Seabridge Gold's KSM the environmental nod


December 20, 2014
Saturday AM

(SitNews) Ketchikan, Alaska - The Canadian federal government approved the environmental assessment application on Friday for the massive KSM gold and copper mine in northwestern British Columbia near the Alaska border saying it is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects.

Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of the Environment, Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency and Minister for the Arctic Council, announced Friday that the proposed KSM (Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell) Project, located in British Columbia, is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects when the mitigation measures described in the Comprehensive Study Report are taken into account.

The mine, which is owned by Seabridge Gold Inc., is considered the largest undeveloped gold reserve in the world and also has copper, silver and molybdenum deposits. Proven and probable reserves total 38.2 million ounces of gold and 9.9 billion pounds of coppe according to Seabridge Gold.

The project would be approximately 22 miles from the Alaska border, and in August the state took the rare step of asking the Canadian government for involvement in the approval process over concerns for its rivers and fish.

Seabridge Gold’s Vice President of Environmental Affairs, Brent Murphy, presented a KSM Project update to the Alaska Miners Association Fall Convention on November 6, 2014 in Anchorage, Alaska. Click here to view the presentation slide deck.

In her announcement, Aglukkaq noted:

  • the Project is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects as defined in the former Act, taking into account the implementation of the mitigation measures described in the Report;
  • the Project can reasonably be expected to have adverse environmental effects on residents of Nisga'a Lands, Nisga'a Lands or Nisga'a interests, but the effects are not likely to be significant with the implementation of the identified mitigation measures;
  • the Project may result in both adverse and positive effects on the existing and future economic, social and cultural well-being of Nisga'a citizens; and
    the mitigation measures and follow-up program described in the Report are appropriate for the Project.

The Aglukkaq has referred the Project back to the responsible authorities, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Natural Resources Canada and Environment Canada for appropriate action under section 37 of the former Act.

The Aglukkaq requested the responsible authorities ensure the implementation of the mitigation measures described in the Report. Aglukkaq also requested that the responsible authorities ensure the implementation of the follow-up program described in the Report, in order to determine the effectiveness of the measures taken to mitigate any adverse environmental effects and to verify the accuracy of the environmental assessment of the Project.

The Minister has also issued a Project Recommendation under the Nisga'a Final Agreement (NFA) that includes provisions to mitigate adverse environmental effects on the Nisga'a Nation.

In reaching her decision and making her recommendation, the Aglukkaq said she considered the Comprehensive Study Report and the comments received from the public, the Nisga'a Nation and other Aboriginal groups on the report.

According to Aglukkaq, the project was assessed using a science-based approach in accordance with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. The KSM Project was also subject to requirements under the NFA, a modern treaty signed by the governments of Canada, British Columbia and the Nisga'a Nation.

The mine is on the territory of the Nisga'a Nation, and Seabridge reached agreement earlier this year with the Nisga'a Nation that includes financial payments, profit sharing and commitments to employ Nisga'a Nation members.

Seabridge Gold Incorporated proposes to develop a gold, copper, silver, and molybdenum mine in the Kerr, Sulphurets and Mitchell Creek watersheds. The project is located approximately 65 km northwest of Stewart, BC. The Project is expected to have an average ore extraction rate of approximately 130,000 tonnes per day over an anticipated 52-year mine life.

According to Mining Weekly, during construction, Seabridge would spend $3.5-billion in British Columbia and $6-billion in Canada. Over the life of the mine’s operations it would contribute more than $400-million in gross domestic product for British Columbia and more than $42-billion for Canada.

Environmentalists, aboriginal groups and commercial fishermen in Alaska claim the project poses a risk to rivers that flow into Alaska, and have pointed to a recent tailings spill at another mine in central B.C. to support their concerns.

According to the environmental group Earthworks, the KSM Project is opposed by eleven U.S. federally recognized tribes, and southeast Alaska’s billion- dollar commercial fishing industry. U.S. Senators Murkowski (AK-R), Begich (AK-D) and Rep. Young (AK-R) have raised serious concerns regarding KSM, asking the Secretary of State to conduct bilateral discussions with the Canadian government about the project.

In the aftermath of the Mount Polley tailings pond failure in B.C. in August 2014, U.S. Senator Mark Begich, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and the Coast Guard, announced plans to hold a hearing on the transboundary mines to continue the discussion.

Tribal governments have also urged the State Department to request that the Canadian government elevate the mine project to a Panel Review. Other downstream Alaskan stakeholders are calling for a referral to the International Joint Commission for a review under the Boundary Waters Treaty, according to Earthworks.


Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews

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Sources of News: 

Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency

Government of Canada


Mining Weekly

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