EDITORIAL — KGHM is trying to have conversations again.
In a letter to City council this week, the company said it will produce “plain language” summaries of the studies that will be part of its application for an environmental permit. It will hold open houses, set up some other unspecified public events, and will print another booklet for distribution to residents.
“We are excited to have a conversation with the community that is based on facts and science,” the letter, written by Ajax spokesman Yves Lacasse, says.
Another letter making the rounds, this one to members of the business community, includes an invitation to breakfast or lunch to talk about the importance of the project. “As a member of the business community and leader in Kamloops, I know you understand the importance of transparent conversations as we make important decisions such as the Ajax Project,” it begins.
Again, there’s mention of science, but with a call for common sense thrown in: “KGHM invests in opportunities in places where science and common sense define the decision-making process.”
A year ago, of course, there was the well-known ‘The Conversation’ video. “The sun will shine; there will be snow in winter, and hockey’s our game,” it said. “And the rest is up for conversation.”
And even before that, there was the brochure with the front cover that said, ‘Ajax: A conversation led by science and informed by fact.” Just as the letter to businesses claims mining is “in our DNA,” the brochure talked of “building on Kamloops’ rich history of mining and environmental stewardship.”
As if a project so close to town, and so much bigger than anything ever done here before, is simply carrying on a mining tradition. KGHM has been repeating the facts-and-conversation stuff for so long it obviously believes it’s effective.
A conversation is an informal exchange of ideas. “Conversation” sounds so friendly, so non-threatening, no winners or losers. Yet KGHM has avoided a town hall meeting where a true “conversation” can be held, opting instead for easily managed open houses and meetings by invitation. It isn’t interested in a formal public debate where people could compare the pros and the cons, the proponents and opponents.
The KGHM idea of a conversation is creating opportunities to get its message across, to promote its own position. This is not surprising, and certainly not bad business. It’s marketing, and businesses need to market themselves.
But it isn’t a conversation. The Ajax debate is an argument. As TRU Prof. Michael Mehta said recently in a public presentation about the potential social impacts of Ajax, the mine proposal has divided the community into friend and foe, has “polarized and disrupted” Kamloops.
The “science” very much depends on which side you’re on. One side claiming it has the monopoly on facts, science and common sense doesn’t make it so.
And the debate — divisive, emotional, polarizing, at times loud — will go on until the decision is made and long after. “Conversation” isn’t a word that applies.