Opposition is heating up against the KSM gold-copper mine proposed by Seabridge Gold of Toronto. Today a coalition of Rivers Without Borders, Earthworks, and Southeast Alaska Conservation Council issued a news release calling the risks of development “unprecedented.” The site is 65 km northwest of Stewart, BC, on the Alaska-British Columbia border.
The coalition has outlined five key risks of the project. Their members allege:
- Seabridge is using unrealistic metals prices, despite the fact that PriceWaterhouseCoopers is predicting low metals price for the long term;
- The tailings containment will rely on the same technology used at the Mount Polley mine where the dam was breached in 2014;
- The sulphide nature of the ore will mean that mine and surface drainage will have to be treated at high cost after closure, presumably forever;
- Uncertainty remains concerning aboriginal land claims and ownership by a third party of the route proposed for the tunnel linking the mine with the mineral processing facilities; and
- Political opposition to the KSM mine is increasing, to wit, the International Joint Commission is calling for bilateral discussions and the Alaska governor is concerned about transboundary effects of development.
The Seabridge Gold’s KSM Project Risk Analysis was authored by Rivers Without Borders and Salmon Without Borders. The opinion within the report were based on the KSM pre-feasibility study. It is a public document, and anyone is entitled to read it.
The question then is: How qualified was the person(s) who read the pre-feasibility study and made these observations?
Undoubtedly, anyone with some background in engineering could make these observations. But without specific expertise in mining and exploration, does the person know anything about the timing of getting a property from discovery to production? A person needs an understanding of long lead times to have perspective on the timing of the project. Seabridge has received environmental approval from the Canadian government for the KSM project, but it could still be five to 10 years before it produces a single pound of copper or ounce of gold.
If start-up of the project is that far into the future, a lot can change. Metal prices can rise, technology can reduce water use and treatment, additional safeguards can be engineered into the tailings management facility, and land access and use can be settled.
I understand that the opposition to the mine wants to be heard, and its timing is spectacular coming a week before Seabridge’s annual general meeting on June 24. I am confident that the management of Seabridge is hearing them and addressing their concerns.
Just let me say once more that a lot can happen to de-risk the KSM project in the time it takes to get it going. All stakeholders must engage with respect if the KSM project is to be de-risked and move forward in a mutually acceptable manner.
I have faith that the Seabridge team can do exactly that.