Here are some frequently asked questions about the KSM project.
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Who is Seabridge Gold?
Seabridge Gold is a mineral exploration and development company that began business in 1999. Since then, Seabridge has been consistently focused on evaluating, acquiring, exploring and developing gold deposits in North America. The company is headquartered in Toronto and is focused on two major projects: the proposed KSM mine in northwest British Columbia and the proposed Courageous Lake mine in the Northwest Territories.
What is the KSM project? Where is it?
The KSM project is a proposed gold/copper mine located 65 kilometres northwest of Stewart, B.C.
What are the benefits of the KSM project?
What does the proposed KSM mine look like?
The project has an estimated mine life of more than 52 years, allowing for multi-generation employment for people living in British Columbia’s northwest.
KSM will provide:
- Annual on-site employment for 1,800 people over the five-year construction period
- Employment for 1,040 people per year once the mine is in operation
- Many more jobs for suppliers and other support services
- Tax revenues
- Other economic benefits for the region
Click here to learn more about the economic benefits of the project.
Is Seabridge Gold already building the mine?
The mine is divided into two distinct areas:
- The mine site, which is the area around the four mineral deposits (Kerr, Sulphurets, Mitchell and Iron Cap) where the open and underground pits will be located.
- Process plant (where the valuable minerals are removed from the rock) and tailings management facility, located 27 kilometres northeast of the mine site.
Click here for a map of the proposed project with all of the different components labelled and described.
KSM is still in the environmental assessment and permitting phase. The mine is estimated to take about five years to build once regulators have granted the necessary project approvals and permits.
What is a working group?
Working groups advise the British Columbia Environmental Assessment Office and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency about challenges and community concerns related to a proposed project’s environmental assessment and are made up of experts from many different fields and disciplines.
Does KSM have a working group?
KSM has a working group that has met 16 times over the past two years. The working group has offered valuable advice and guidance to Seabridge about the information that should be collected and ways to avoid potential problems. The working group also plays an important role in helping to assess the adequacy of any proposed mitigation measures.
What are tailings?
Tailings are the materials left over after the valuable minerals are separated from the ore. They must be stored during operation and after closure in a tailings management facility.
What is a tailing management facility (TMF)? Is it safe?
What is Seabridge doing to protect the environment?
A TMF is a place where tailings are stored. The TMF for KSM will be located in a valley where dams will be built to contain the tailings. In the middle of one of the dams, there will be a special lined pond where some of the tailings will be stored. This is the first lined pond in British Columbia. While a lined pond is not a regulatory requirement for the project, Seabridge is committed to upholding the highest environmental standards in its mine designs.
Every TMF must be designed to meet requirements under the Fisheries Act and Metal Mining Effluent Regulations. Seabridge has spent five years studying and designing the KSM project and evaluated 14 different locations for the TMF, including locations suggested by the project’s working group.
Every proposed and operating mine will impact its natural surroundings in some way, but it can be designed responsibly to minimize its impact and footprint. The protection of wildlife, fisheries and water quality is Seabridge’s top priority. Projects are developed under strict environmental guidelines and undergo comprehensive regulatory reviews. An example of the ways we are minimizing the KSM footprint is by using existing infrastructure from previous mining wherever we can. In addition, KSM’s mineral deposits are currently exposed to the environment, and the run-off impacts local waterways. If the KSM project is built, these naturally occurring higher levels of metals in the water will be controlled.
How will Seabridge ensure that the mine does not harm the environment after it closes?
The KSM project has been designed with closure in mind. The aim is to minimize KSM’s footprint and commit to restoring the site after closure. Water quality will be monitored for as long as necessary.
How will this impact fish and wildlife?
This project is undergoing one of the most comprehensive and robust environmental assessment processes in the world, including reviews by the federal and provincial governments and Seabridge’s four aboriginal partners. As part of this process, we have undertaken many studies of wildlife and fisheries and have listened to the feedback from our aboriginal partners. KSM’s mine design reflects this research and feedback.
Will the KSM project cause dirty waterways and unhealthy fish in Alaska and BC?
The KSM project has undergone extensive environmental and technical evaluations by independent experts over the past five years to ensure its operation will not cause harm to the surrounding environment, including waterways and fish. Protection of the environment is a guiding principle behind the design of the KSM project, and during operation, KSM will fully meet all applicable standards to ensure water quality set by US Environmental Protection Agency, the Canadian and Provincial governments and the BC Environmental Agency.
Will the KSM Project discharge minerals at levels that exceed fresh water guidelines near the Alaska border?
One finding from the baseline data is that due to the natural erosion process, many of the water systems in the project area contain mineral levels which exceed fresh water standards. Regulatory standards require that if this water is influenced by mining activity, it must be treated prior to being discharged to ensure it meets US water quality standards. Due to Seabridge’s extensive water management plan, water quality at the US border will continue to meet either baseline levels or existing US receiving water guidelines.
Will Seabridge be able to control the amount of selenium it will discharge in to local waterways?
We will meet applicable selenium levels at the US border. Selenium is a naturally occurring element that is plentiful in the Sulphurets and Mitchell Creek areas because of the area’s extensive mineralization. Due to the presence of enriched selenium in the rocks, our studies show water quality and fish tissue levels to be elevated above existing Canadian receiving water guidelines, which are more stringent that US guidelines. Seabridge will implement waste rock segregation and isolation, as well as source water treatment for the Kerr waste rock, and this will allow us to control the amount of selenium we discharge.
Will Seabridge be able to control the volume of water created by the KSM Project?
Seabridge has designed a robust water management system for KSM that will manage and minimize both water quality and quantity effects. Even climate change has been considered in the design. The system will discharge water at volumes which match the waters’ natural flow cycles, thus ensuring fish are not harmed. Additionally, the water management system relies on tunnels, instead of diversion ditches which become blocked easily. Seabridge has also included design redundancies, such as twinning all long term water diversion tunnels, to ensure we control water volumes in all situations.
Is Seabridge using new and unproven technology for water management?
Seabridge is using the best available technology for water management. It is proven and robust. The primary water treatment system is a high density sludge system (HDS) similar to systems used worldwide, including in BC, the USA and Chile. When required, in year 27 of operation, the selenium treatment system will be an ion exchange system, which is being used successfully in West Virginia right now.
Will the KSM Project fill the McTagg and Mitchell valleys with acid rock?
No acid generating contact water will be released in to the environment. Seabridge will use the Mitchell and McTagg valleys for rock storage and the facilities will be stable over the long-term because they use the natural valley walls as support. Like much of the project area, the Mitchell valley is naturally acidic with PH values of 2.3 – 2.5 occurring in the valley. Acid rock drainage is naturally generated because of the mineralized rock’s exposure to the weather. However, to protect the area, run off from the rock storage will be captured within a water storage facility and the water will be treated prior to release.
Will the tunnels and dams designed for the KSM Project be able to stand up the area’s floods and avalanches? Are you sure they won’t fail?
We are confident our robust design means KSM can withstand potential hazards. Identifying and mitigating hazards such as floods and avalanches are an important part of the KSM project design process. As with other project element designs, we even modeled in climate change to ensure we had the most robust design possible. During the planning processes, when project facilities were identified as having risks, we either moved the facility, or if it could not be moved, strengthen the design to accommodate for hazards. For instance, tunnel entrances will have avalanche protection structures; major water diversion tunnels have been duplicated to mitigate the potential of one tunnel failing; and the tunnels have been designed to handle excesses of any imaginable or conceived flow. Additionally, previous tunnels within the area and within similar bedrock, like the Granduc Mine tunnel, have remained stable for more than 60 years.
Does Seabridge have the funds to sufficiently reclaim the mine site and monitor water conditions?
The provincial government establishes the bond value required to reclaim and monitor the site. If the government were to find any project proponent, including Seabridge, incapable of posting the necessary funds to reclaim or monitor the site, they would not issues permits to build the mine. Seabridge’s financial plan for KSM includes significant funds to reclaim and monitor the site. As we’ve stated, Seabridge will not be the operator, but does plan on being a partner in KSM for the foreseeable future. KSM will require a large, world-class, major mining company to be its operator. Such a company will have sufficient funds to reclaim and monitor the KSM site.
Will the KSM Project harm the environment around the Skeena, Stikine, Nass and Unuk Rivers?
KSM will be able to operate without harming the environment, including the major watersheds in which we will operate. We know this based on our robust project design and the extensive independent environmental and engineering evaluations conducted over a five-year period. Protection of the environment is a guiding principle behind the design of the KSM project, so based on feedback and requests from First Nations and other working groups, Seabridge has incorporated several design changes in to the project, adding more than $400 million to the project’s capital cost. In addition, we have support from the Nisga’a Nation and the Gitxsan, local aboriginal peoples living closest to the project.
How does Seabridge engage with aboriginal groups in the area?
How will Seabridge protect archeological sites?
Seabridge began its community engagement in March 2008 with the Treaty and First Nations in the region before beginning to design the project. We did this to understand environmental and economic sensitivities and expectations. Seabridge has established close working relationships with three First Nations groups – Gitanyow, Gitxsan (including Wilp Skii Km Lax Ha) and Tahltan – and the one Treaty Nation, the Nisg
Seabridge currently employs people from its Treaty and First Nations partners and local non-aboriginal communities for environmental fieldwork, jobs in the project camps and for additional contracted work. Since 2006, Seabridge has provided more than 4,300 days of work (the equivalent of more than 16 years of full-time employment) to members of local aboriginal communities.
What impact has KSM had on the local business community?
Seabridge has relied upon the traditional knowledge of the Treaty and First Nations to avoid culturally sensitive areas. As a result of this engagement, we have made significant design changes to reflect and accommodate aboriginal peoples’ observations and concerns.
Areas of archaeological potential have been screened by a licensed archaeologist, and Seabridge has procedures in place to address chance archaeological discoveries at KSM during work programs. Based on the archaeological baseline work completed at the site, Seabridge has introduced designs to avoid the areas in which archaeological finds have been identified.
Since acquiring a 100 per cent stake in the KSM project in 2006, Seabridge has spent nearly $110 million in exploration, engineering and environmental work to move the project toward production. The estimated budget for 2012 is $25 million and approximately 80 per cent of spending to date has been in local communities across British Columbia. Wherever possible, labour and services from northwest British Columbia are used.