BY RUSSELL HIXSON - A $5.3 billion mining project proposed for Northern B.C. cleared a major hurdle last week after receiving provincial environmental approval.
The KSM mining project proposed by Seabridge Gold would tap one of the largest copper and gold deposits in the world.
The decision was made after considering a review led by British Columbia's Environmental Assessment Office.
After reviewing the project, the province determined that it would not likely cause significant adverse environmental effects.
However, there are still other major obstacles to clear before ground can be broken.
Seabridge must now obtain Federal approval, about 200 additional operating permits, strategic partnerships and financing to move forward.
The certificate also comes with conditions developed following consultation and input from the Nisga'a Nation, First Nations, government agencies, communities and the public.
Some of the major conditions include: Seabridge Gold must have a fully operational selenium treatment plant by year five of operations and that they must construct water treatment facilities prior to the mining of any ore.
They must also make financial contributions to support moose recovery initiatives, develop a wetlands management plan and develop a wildlife collisions protocol.
The construction phase would take about five years and require 1,800 construction workers.
Twelve temporary camps, each accommodating between 40 to 800 people, would be set up.
The KSM project is designed to mine gold, copper, silver and molybdenum located in the coastal mountains of northwestern B.C., about 950 kilometres northwest of Vancouver, 65 kilometres northwest of Stewart and 35 kilometres northeast of British Columbia's border with Alaska.
The project will have two main development areas: the mine site, and the processing and tailing management area (PTMA).
Currently, getting to the mine site and the PTMA requires flying in a helicopter.
Getting workers, supplies and equipment to the site means building two new access roads.
These would be the Coulter Creek access road and the Treaty Creek access road, totalling 68 km of new road.
The plans include a processing plant where copper, gold and molybdenum are separated from the ore by a floatation process.
Cyanide, used to boost gold extraction, is recovered and residual chemicals are destroyed.
The copper, gold and molybdenum are then trucked offsite for more processing. It also pumps ground ore with the metals removed to the tailing facility.
A pair of parallel ore transport tunnels, each 23 km long, must be built for access to the various facilities and mine sites.
The parallel tunnels also will have cross connections to provide escape routes and enable ventilation during their construction. Inside the tunnels will be conveyors, diesel pipelines and transmission lines. Rock storage areas for non-ore material will also need building.
Two diversion tunnels are planned to steer water away from mines and storage facilities. This will help maintain water quality. The water running through the tunnels will be harnessed by turbines to generate power.