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Mining company orders tailings pond review

Seabridge Gold
Seabridge Gold's KSM property in northwestern B.C. contains gold, copper, molybdenum and silver.
— image credit: SEABRIDGE GOLD

The company that wants to develop one of the largest gold and copper deposits in the world is commissioning a review of its tailings pond design.

Seabridge Gold, which has provincial approval for its KSM project and which is awaiting federal approval, decided on the review following the Mount Polley tailings pond breach, says Brent Murphy, its environmental affairs vice-president.

The review is independent and not connected to one ordered last week by the provincial government of existing tailings ponds.

“We decided it was the right thing to do,” said Murphy, adding that the decision was not prompted by the province or by the Nisga’a Lisims Government or First Nations.

He said the company is now assembling a list of experts for what he called a “fully independent, experienced and technically qualified third-party review board.”

The object is to determine if Seabridge’s tailings and water storage design meets Canadian dam standards, Murphy said.

The company’s plans were reviewed in 2011 and 2013 by an external board and the company is confident “there were no fatal flaws in the design,” he said.

When completed, the review will be sent to the provincial and federal governments, Alaskan authorities, the Nisga’a Lisims Government, area First Nations and the public, Murphy continued.

“We do expect some recommendations. There are always recommendations,” he said.

Leading up to provincial approval, the Gitanyow First Nation did register worries about downstream effects during mine operations.

And the company did modify original plans and move the tailings pond location to address worries of Alaskan fishing interests.

Approved by the provincial government the end of July, the KSM location also contains silver and molybdenum and there are projections for mining to take place for 50 years, employing as many as 1,000 people at a time.

Seabridge Gold is a junior company and it has said from the start it will need a senior partner with deep pockets to provide the estimated (US) $5.5 billion needed for construction and additional operations requirements.

The company this year signed a benefits agreement with the Nisga’a Lisims Government and, in turn, the Nisga’a Lisims Government has signed a deal with the province for tax revenues.

The deal will provide 37.5 per cent of provincial tax royalties from the mine.

In the meantime, Alaskan politicians and Alaskan commercial fishing interests are asking U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to intervene in plans by Seabridge and others to develop mines which they say could affect rivers flowing into Alaska from Canada should something happen.

Their request follows on the tailings spill at the Mount Polley mine.

They say Kerry could ask that the highest level of federal Canada review be undertaken for mining projects.

And they said Kerry could use the Boundary Waters Treaty, an agreement between Canada and the United States they say prohibits one country from polluting waters that flow across to the other country.

 

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