Canada Approves Controversial Mine Near Southeast Alaska’s Border

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.

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Ed Schoenfeld is Regional News Director for CoastAlaska, a consortium of public radio stations in Ketchikan, Juneau, Sitka, Petersburg and Wrangell. He primarily covers Southeast Alaska regional topics, including the state ferry system, transboundary mining, the Tongass National Forest and Native corporations and issues. He has also worked as a manager, editor and reporter for the Juneau Empire newspaper and Juneau public radio station KTOO. He’s also reported for commercial station KINY in Juneau and public stations KPFA in Berkley, WYSO in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and WUHY in Philadelphia. He’s lived in Alaska since 1979 and is a contributor to Alaska Public Radio Network newscasts, the Northwest (Public Radio) News Network and National Native News. He is a board member of the Alaska Press Club. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, he lives in Douglas.