Here are some frequently asked questions about the KSM project.
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Who is KSM Mining ULC?
KSM Mining ULC, subsidiary of Seabridge Gold INC., is the holder of the KSM Property. Seabridge Gold acquired a 100 percent stake in the KSM Project in 2000 and took it through the Environmental Assessment (EA) process. In 2018, Seabridge Gold transferred all interests in the KSM Project to KSM Mining ULC.
Who is Seabridge Gold?
Seabridge Gold is a Canadian based resource exploration 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 has 100 percent ownership of KSM Mining ULC, holder of the KSM Project, and the Iskut Project in Northwest British Columbia as well as the Courageous Lake Project 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 1,552 people over the five-year construction period
- Employment for 1,407 people 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 KSM Mining 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.
The KSM Project underwent a rigorous independent joint harmonized BC-CANADA Environmental Assessment, and the Provincial and Federal governments granted their approval in 2014. Permits for early stage construction activities have also been obtained.
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 created a working group which met multiple times as part of the environmental assessment engagement process. The working group offered valuable advice and guidance to Seabridge about the information that should be collected and ways to avoid potential problems. The working group also played 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 KSM Mining 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 KSM Mining’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 KSM Mining 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 has undergone one of the most comprehensive and robust environmental assessment processes in the world, including several wildlife and aquatic life studies. The Federal Minister of the Environment, in making her decision to approve, relied upon the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency scientific report which stated, “The agency has concluded that no significant adverse impacts on water quality, water quantity, fish, or human health are expected on the Alaskan side of the Unuk River.”
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 KSM Mining be able to control the amount of selenium it will discharge in to local waterways?
In 2015, Seabridge Gold successfully completed a pilot plant evaluation of a new process for the removal of selenium from waters in northwest BC. The Selen-IX™ technology has been developed specifically to remove selenium from industrial wastewater to the most stringent limits in the US and Canada without relying on dilution in the receiving environment. This Selenium treatment technology also satisfies a key legally binding condition of the BC Environmental Assessment Certificate.
Will KSM Mining be able to control the volume of water created by the KSM Project?
KSM Mining 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. KSM Mining has also included design redundancies, such as twinning all long term water diversion tunnels, to ensure we control water volumes in all situations.
Is KSM Mining using new and unproven technology for water management?
KSM Mining 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. KSM Mining 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 KSM Mining 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 KSM Mining, incapable of posting the necessary funds to reclaim or monitor the site, they would not issues permits to build the mine. Our financial plan for KSM includes significant funds to reclaim and monitor the site. As we’ve stated, KSM Mining 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. The Federal Minister of the Environment, in making her decision to approve, relied upon the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency scientific report which stated, “The agency has concluded that no significant adverse impacts on water quality, water quantity, fish, or human health are expected on the Alaskan side of the Unuk River.” Protection of the environment is a guiding principle behind the design of the KSM project, so based on feedback and requests from Indigenous and other working groups, Seabridge incorporated several design changes in to the project, adding more than $300 million to the project’s capital cost. In addition, we have support from the Nisga’a Nation, Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs Office and the Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs for the project. We have also received letters from the communities of Terrace and Smithers, both supporting the KSM Project.
How does KSM Mining engage with indigenous groups in the area?
How will KSM Mining protect archeological sites?
During the EA process, Seabridge Gold conducted hundreds of meetings with community members, regulators, Treaty and First Nations. Seabridge also voluntarily conducted 130 meetings/interactions with Alaskan community members, regulators and Tribes during the EA process.
Seabridge has entered into Comprehensive Benefits Agreement with the Nisga’a Nation and is very close to completing a similar agreement with the Tahltan Nation. The Project also entered into an Environmental Sustainability agreement with the Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs Office while the Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs have endorsed the Project with a letter of support for environmental assessment approval. The company has also received letters from the communities of Terrace and Smithers, both supporting the KSM Project. To Seabridge, working alongside Indigenous groups during KSM permitting, planning and development stages is critical to the success of the KSM Project. As part of this commitment, Seabridge has continued to collect key streams of environmental baseline data and holds an annual Environmental Program Review meeting each spring with Indigenous groups to describe the annual data summaries, ongoing permitting reviews and upcoming events.
What impact has KSM had on the local business community?
KSM Mining’s parent company Seabridge has relied upon the traditional knowledge of the Treaty and First Nations to avoid culturally sensitive areas. As a result of this engagement, significant design changes were made to reflect and accommodate indigenous 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 percent stake in the KSM project in 2006, To date, Seabridge has spent $313M on exploration, engineering and environmental work to move the Project forward. Approximately 80 percent of this spending has been in BC. Wherever possible, labour and services from northwest British Columbia are used.