A controversial mine near Southeast Alaska’s border won approval from Canada’s federal government on Friday.
The Kerr-Sulphurets – Mitchell project’s environmental protection plan got the OK from the nation’s Ministry of the Environment.
The project, known as the KSM, is in northwest British Columbia, northeast of Ketchikan and east of Wrangell.
Brent Murphy, of mine owner Seabridge Gold, says the federal action is an important step.
“It means that the project can proceed,” Murphy said. “We’ve received both the provincial and Canadian governments’ approvals.”
“Essentially, it’s an approval in principal and now we move forward in the permitting phase.”
He says the project has about 100 of the 150 permits it needs. It’s also seeking investors to develop the proposed $5.3 billion mine.
The KSM is a copper, gold and silver deposit upstream of two rivers that enter the ocean within about 50 miles of Ketchikan.
Fisheries, tribal and environmental groups in Southeast Alaska oppose development, saying the mine would pollute those rivers and harm salmon and those who eat them.
Canada’s action disturbs Carrie James, who co-chairs Southeast’s United Tribal Transboundary Mining Working Group.
“I’m just really disappointed in the decision; it doesn’t surprise me. We’re not going to stop. We’ll keep fighting and we can’t stop,” James said.
Opponents are asking the Obama administration to pressure Canada to use more stringent permitting standards. They’re also pressing British Columbia to give the project a higher level of review.