Seabridge Gold recently received final approval for its application for an Environmental Assessment Certificate for the KSM project. Here, Chairman and CEO Rudi Fronk discusses what that means and what's next for the company.
British Columbia-focused mining companies have been in the spotlight this week on the back of a tailings pond breach at Imperial Metals' (TSX:III) Mount Polley copper-gold mine. The incident released water and tailings into the surrounding area, causing physical damage and resulting in widespread water bans. Unsurprisingly, the breach has shaken investors' trust in Imperial, especially given that a spokesperson from BC's Ministry of Environment has said the company was warned "repeatedly" about tailings pond levels before the accident happened. Given that context, it was refreshing to speak with Rudi Fronk, chairman and CEO of Seabridge Gold (TSX:SEA,NYSE:SA). His company recently received final approval from BC's environment and energy and mines ministers for its application for an Environmental Assessment Certificate for the KSM project, and Fronk emphasized that Seabridge is focused on following the rules as it advances KSM. Getting to "yes" KSM is only the second metal mine in five years to receive an Environmental Assessment Certificate from the province of BC, and according to Fronk, it's not because no companies are applying. Rather, it's because the process "is exhaustive and expensive." It can also be tough to juggle the interests of various stakeholders; of course, as Seabridge has proved, it's not impossible. Explaining his company's process, Fronk said, "one thing you have to recognize is that having the First Nations and treaty nations on side helps you get through the process. You need to make sure that in the process you're satisfying the questions and concerns that they bring forward as you review the project designs with them." For Seabridge, that has meant working with treaty nations and First Nations since 2008, a strategy that Fronk said has paid off "in terms of the public endorsement that [Seabridge] has received" from those groups. He added, "we've made a lot of design changes based on their input and their feedback."