On 23 December 2016, Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC) filed a complaint with the Canadian NCP against Seabridge Gold concerning its Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell Project in British Columbia, Canada. The complaint alleged that Seabridge Gold’s proposed open-pit and underground mine with gold, copper, silver and molybdenum deposits, had breached the OECD Guidelines. The complainants allege that Seabridge Gold failed to fully disclose its plans to avoid, mitigate or prevent all environmental concerns identified by SEACC, that the company did not provide for meaningful engagement with SEACC and other Alaskan stakeholders, and that Seabridge Gold failed to consider or plan mitigation regarding expected negative contaminants on water and downstream fisheries; amongst others, including avoiding adverse impacts on the human rights to clean water, healthy resources and traditional and subsistence fisheries.
The complainants requested 15 specific remedies from the company, including the full disclosure of the steps taken to avoid and mitigate environmental harm, a commitment by the company to adhere to the Guidelines, a dispute resolution and damage payment mechanism for downstream Alaskan people; and the creation of a funding source for environmental monitoring and remediation.
Relevant OECD Guidelines
- Chapter II
- Chapter II Paragraph A10
- Chapter II Paragraph A14
- Chapter III
- Chapter III Paragraph 1
- Chapter III Paragraph 2
- Chapter IV
- Chapter IV Paragraph 1
- Chapter IV Paragraph 2
- Chapter IV Paragraph 3
- Chapter IV Paragraph 4
- Chapter IV Paragraph 5
- Chapter IV Paragraph 6
- Chapter VI
- Chapter VI Paragraph 1 a
- Chapter VI Paragraph 2 a
- Chapter VI Paragraph 2 b
- Chapter VI Paragraph 5
On 13 November 2017, the Canadian NCP rejected the complaint stating that while examining the compliant in its initial assessment phase, they found that the issues were material to the Guidelines, but did not find that the issues raised in the complaint would benefit from the NCP in the form of facilitated dialogue or mediation.
The rationale provided by the NCP was that all reports and studies prepared by Seabridge Gold, such as its environmental impact assessment which includes information regarding its mitigation plans, were publically available. The NCP states that the project was subject to a rigorous and detailed environmental assessment process by the federal and provincial government and furthers that the NCP will not review decisions of other government agencies.
The NCP also said that the company had provided them with evidence that they had held consultations in 2011 with Alaskan stakeholders, including SEACC, and had also carried out communications with SEACC between 2013-2016. The company stated that the concerns raised by stakeholders were integrated into the project and had led to changes in the project designs.
The NCP did not state whether it considered the concerns and remedies sought by SEACC to be sufficiently covered in the project documents and designs, nor did they provide further clarification as to why they did not feel an offer of its good offices would help resolve the issues at hand and remedies sought. Instead, the NCP made the following recommendations to the parties:
That Seabridge and SEACC meet and discuss in good faith, independently of the NCP process, with the goal of resolving any misunderstanding and outstanding concerns;
The NCP recommends that Seabridge continue to consult stakeholders, including those in Alaska, in the development and implementation of follow-up and monitoring programs described in the project documents;
The NCP recommends that Seabridge officially and publically endorse the OECD Guidelines;
The NCP recommends that Seabridge endorse and implement the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Meaningful Stakeholder Engagement in the Extractive Sector.