The proposed Kerr- Sulphurets-Mitchell mine, owned by Seabridge Gold Inc., 65-kilometres north of Stewart, B.C. is drawing fire from the Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs Office.
The KSM project would consist of three open pit mines, one of which would be the deepest in the world at 1,200-metres, according to Kevin Koch, GHCO technical advisor.
Koch made a presentation to Smithers’ mayor and council yesterday, which focused on some very key issues.
“Not to take anything away from the protection of water in northeastern B.C., but the KSM project has the potential to destroy wild salmon populations in the Nass River,” Koch said in a phone interview last week.
The portion of the project that concerns Koch the most is the tailings pond, which requires more than 23-kilometres of piped waste-water
into an eight kilometre by two kilometre tailings pond with two dams that would measure the tallest in B.C. 70-metres, Koch said.
“I hovered in a helicopter at where the surface of the proposed tailings pond’s surface would be and it was nearly up to the sub-alpine level,” Koch said.
The two 200-metre earthen dams would hold back 2.3 billion tonnes of tailings, which would be built up over the proposed 52-year lifespan of the KSM project.
Where the open pit mines are situated, within 30-kilometres of the U.S.-Canada border, drains into the Unuk River, which flows through Alaska, but the tailings pond is what the GHCO points to as the threat.
“The tailings pond is on top of Teigen and Treaty Creeks,” Koch said. “Those eventually reach the Nass River.”
The proposed tailings pond and earthen dams are scheduled to be needed for more than 200 years, which sets off major alarm bells for Koch.
“We’ll all be dead when that pond is let go,” Koch added. “I think 200 years is plenty of time for things to go wrong.”
Koch points to the W.A.C. Bennett Dam as an example of what happens when things don’t go according to plan.
“A sinkhole developed and they had to pump untreated water out to decrease pressure,” he said. “If that happens with KSM the water is headed straight down the Nass.”
The other two main concerns for the GHCO are the acid-draining rock taken from the pit, which is more than 70 per cent of the 2.34 billion tonnes of waste rock to be removed and the increase in traffic along Highway 37, which would put a strain on an already depleted moose population, Koch said.
The KSM project had its public consultation period end last October and is nearing the end of both the federal and provincial environmental assessments.
“I think people have been so busy with all the projects being constructed up here that they failed to notice this looming danger in our own back yard,” Koch said. “We’re just asking for this project to have the brakes put on while we figure out if it’s in everyone’s best interest. I’m not against mining by any stretch, but a project like this has never been seen in B.C. before and it would be beneficial for us to do it right the first time.”
Seabridge Gold could not be reached for comment before press time.