About this report
Safe management of tailing may be the single most important way to minimize the environmental impact of a mine. Tailing facilities pose risks that must be carefully managed from a mine’s initial design until long after its closure. The Mount Polley dam breach in August of 2014 significantly heightened awareness of these risks in British Columbia, Canada, and internationally. In response to the breach, the provincial government, together with the Williams Lake Indian Band and the Soda Creek Indian Band, ordered an independent review panel to conduct an engineering investigation into the event. An outcome of this investigation was the review panel’s recommendation that new tailing facilities implement Best Available Technology (BAT) for tailing facilities. The panel highlighted a strategy known as filtered tailing as an example of BAT for tailing management, but noted that a range of technologies should be considered. Dr. Dirk van Zyl of the University of British Columbia stated that, in his personal opinion, BAT is:
…not a single technology; its selection is based on a site-specific risk management process with the outcome of a stable and resilient tailings deposit.
Following the panel’s recommendations, the British Columbia Environmental Assessment Office required that the owners of all new proposed mines with tailing dams entering the environmental assessment review process provide a detailed BAT assessment on tailing management specific to the conditions found at each mine site. The goal of these studies is to identify the best available tailing technology for the site conditions of each mine, taking many factors into account, including implications to safety, the environment, technical feasibility, social and economic values, and project economics.
This report summarizes the BAT tailing study conducted for the proposed KSM Project (location shown in Figure 1), which followed the methods suggested by Environment Canada’s Guidelines for the Assessment of Alternatives for Mine Waste Disposal, supplemented with additional analysis specific to tailing management. The KSM Project’s proponent, Seabridge Gold Inc., voluntarily initiated this study to further review the proposed tailing management strategy—as described in the Project’s 2013 Application for an Environmental Assessment Certificate/ Environmental Impact Statement for the KSM Project (Application/EIS) —and to confirm that the current plan is the most appropriate strategy to minimize physical, geochemical, biophysical, and social risks over the life of the tailing facility.
Best Available Technology (BAT) is the combination of tailing technologies and management strategies that most effectively reduce the physical, geochemical, ecological and social risks associated with tailing.
BAT also includes consideration of cultural, heritage, economic values and site-specific conditions. BAT includes site selection considerations, technologies and design features that provide a resilient and robust tailing facility during operations and post-closure. BAT should be implemented at every stage of the tailing life cycle.