By Judith Lavoie.
Two fish-bearing creeks will be used for 2.3 billion tonnes of toxic tailings from the proposed Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell (KSM) mine in northwest B.C., wiping out habitat for several populations of small Dolly Varden fish.
Seabridge Gold Inc. has been given federal government approval to use upper tributaries of the North Treaty and South Teigen Creeks, which flow into the Nass and Bell-Irving rivers, for tailings from the planned gold, copper and molybdenum mine 65 kilometres northwest of Stewart and 30 kilometres from the Alaska border. Once in operation, KSM is set to become the largest open pit mine in North America. Construction is set to begin in 2017.
While the company has pledged to compensate for the loss with development of additional fish habitat in nearby streams and will relocate about 30,000 fish from the affected creeks, Alaskans say they were not consulted, despite a recently-signed Memorandum of Understanding between B.C. and Alaska. There are also growing concerns on the Alaskan side of the border that Canada is making a habit of allowing fish-bearing streams to be used for tailings.
“This just underscores our frustration about really being shut out of the process,” said Heather Hardcastle of Juneau-based Salmon Beyond Borders, pointing out that fish do not abide by national boundaries. Seabridge plans to build 23-kilometre tunnels to take the mining waste to the approved watersheds on the Canadian side of the border but the closest watershed is the Unuk River, one of Alaska’s premier salmon rivers.