SEITC urges new EA for transboundary mine

Tribal nonprofit urges BC government to ensure a new environmental assessment for KSM prospect

A consortium of 15 tribal nations in Southeast Alaska is asking British Columbia’s environmental officials to reject a request from Seabridge Gold in Toronto for a five-year extension on its KSM (Kerr-Sulphurets Mitchell) gold and copper mine prospect.

The Southeast Alaska Indigenous Transboundary Commission (SEITC) made its request on Monday, Aug. 24, in a letter to George Heyman, minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy for British Columbia.

The KSM prospect lies some 960 miles northwest of Vancouver, B.C., and just 20 miles from the U.S. Canadian border, near the headwaters of a tributary of the Unuk River, home to all five species of wild Pacific Salmon and a rich Eulachon run.

Data compiled by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game notes that over the past couple of decades the Unuk has supported runs averaging some 5,000 large king salmon which are caught incidentally in sport and commercial fisheries in northern and southern Southeast Alaska. The Unuk flows from B.C. into Behm Canal near Ketchikan.

SEITC and others are concerned that potential of pollution from the mine would have an adverse impact on salmon habitat.

Seabridge Gold has already received a five-year extension on the KSM project, has done more exploration and found more minerals than initially proposed, said Rob Sanderson Jr., chairman of SEITC. With Seabridge asking for a construction extension it is a perfect time to also ask for a new environmental assessment, Sanderson said.

“We don’t believe that COVID-19 prevents Seabridge from getting a partner to build the KSM mine,” he said. “Gold prices have never been higher and silver prices are similar to 2014 prices. Why won’t investors buy in? Potential investors must be paying attention. Like Alaska’s Pebble mine the KSM project is located in the wrong place.”

Seabridge Gold officials were not immediately available for comment, but the company’s website notes that exploration efforts are continuing “to produce major improvements in the economic and environmental parameters of KSM.”

According to the website, the KSM project did complete a joint harmonized environmental assessment review as outlined by the British Columbia Environmental Assessment Act and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

Final federal approval was received in December 2014.

But SEITC told provincial officials that an updated environmental assessment is needed at this point.

In its letter to Heyman, Sanderson cited an article in the NARWAHL, in which a spokesperson for Heyman’s office said that the environmental assessment office would “initiate a review process with technical advisors and indigenous nations to review the request” for the extension.

SEITC and its member tribes look forward to our involvement in this review process, Sanderson said. He also noted that the B.C. government recently passed legislation to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples throughout its legal system.

“Here in Southeast Alaska, we hope we can take your word because the massive KSM mine would negatively impact our people the most,” he said.