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WALSH – Kamloops can’t afford Ajax without independent oversight

Computer-generated view of proposed tailings pond. Jacko Lake  and the pit are shown north of the pond, new waste rock stack is to right of the pond. Goose Lake would disappear in lower centre of pond. Part of Edith Lake  is on far right.

Computer-generated view of proposed Ajax tailings pond. 

I AM RESPONDING to another legal case focusing on inadequate mining regulations and practices, the most recent is the Mt. Polley tailing’s pond breach just filed in Provincial Court in Williams Lake.

I believe our laws and regulations must be upheld and enforced. This is the only way that we can protect communities and the environment and lead to better, safer, more responsible mining in the future.

What is the point of having regulations and laws if governments and industry are not held accountable when they are violated? Kamloops residents should be more than a little concerned, after the provincial Auditor General recently confirmed the compliance and enforcement regime in charge of regulating the mining industry in our province as inept, inadequate, and conflicting.

The B.C. Auditor General’s report concluded that the Ministry of Energy and Mines’ compliance and enforcement activities of the mining sector are inadequate to protect the province from significant environmental risks.

To date, the Provincial Government has arbitrarily ignored the recent recommendation of Auditor General’s 106-page report, released in May, that mine oversight in B.C. should be independent of the government ministry that issues permits and promotes mining investment, which is an obvious conflict of interest.

With an obvious failed regulatory regime, which is still in place, the City of Kamloops cannot afford the risks that KGHM/Ajax Mine poses unless there
are fundamental changes to the current regulatory system, along with serious consequences for not following the law. A catastrophe similar to Mt. Polley spill, affecting a city of 90,000 residents, would be a disaster of epic proportions.

In my recent letter to Premier Clark (Aug. 12), I requested that the government suspend the permitting process for the Ajax Mine until two fundamental flaws are rectified; the unnecessary proposal of a massive wet tailing’s pond dam in the hills directly above the City of Kamloops, and the failure to implement the Auditor General’s recommendation that the oversight of mining in B.C. should be independent of the government ministry that issues permits, and promotes mining investment, which is an obvious conflict of interest.

The facts above suggest to me that the B.C. Liberal government’s lack of consideration for the uniqueness of B.C.’s first ever urban mine along with the policies on the Ajax mine approval process, are such, that they should alarm even the most avid proponents, including the most apathetic in the public. This flawed urban mine proposal and the current application process indicate a practice that is fundamentally opposed to the notions of fair process and justice held by Canadians.

Last week, residents of Malartic filed a request for an injunction along with a class action law suit regarding the adverse effects from the huge urban mine operating in their backyard. Now we see another legal claim regarding the negative effects to the environment, properties, and citizens from the Mt. Polley disaster.

These issues display the fact that mining companies regularly violate their conditions, our regulatory bodies do not protect the public as companies ignore the conditions of their permit, and the public suffers significant costs to their value of their homes and quality of life.

DENIS WALSH, 
City Councillor,
Kamloops

About Mel Rothenburger (9034 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

5 Comments on WALSH – Kamloops can’t afford Ajax without independent oversight

  1. Cara give your head a shake! “Mt Polley is/was a relatively new mine”….huh? I hate to break it to you but Mount Polley opened its mining operation at that site in 1997 (over 20 years ago) having previously been in operation under different companies for a decade. The tailings pond was old, antiquated and not properly maintained thus resulting in this catastrophic accident. You can not compare a century old mine to a brand new project using brand new technology and completely different topography. Industry learns from mistakes and that is how we get better in every area of industry including medicine where doctors learn from their miss diagnosis, surgical blunders and poor prescribing practices. We learn, we adapt and we move on. We don’t close the hospitals and shoot the doctors so why should any other industry be expected to do so? You environmental Extremists would be screwed if the world operated the way you think it should and the fact that you can’t grasp that is mind boggling to those of us in the industry.

  2. Stevan Puharich // October 19, 2016 at 8:20 AM // Reply

    Sounds like Michael is still driving his 65 mustang.
    If a mine fails it’s the taxpayer that will pickup the bill.
    Mines have evolved not just in design but also in how to circumvent rules and regulations, wether it’s through extensive legal protection, asset redistribution or out right closure.
    A city of 90,000 people should not be held captive by fear. Fear of jobs. Fear of poison. Fear of no healthcare available.
    More jobs would be lost than permantlly provided by a mine.
    The air will be more contaminated regardless of what steps are takin to reduce that excessive dust.
    And Kamloops will be the last choice for future healthcare professionals because health is what they care about, especially when it comes to their own families.

  3. Hear, hear. I agree wholeheartedly. We should never have had to grapple with this in the first place. Too big too close.

  4. How idiotic of a column, you are comparing Mt. Polley and the issues it had to Ajax. Why don’t you just compare the safety comparisons of a 1965 Mustang to a 2016 Mustang. As the subject of safety and environmental issues come up. I say c’mom give your head a shake.

    • Mt Polley is/was a relatively new mine that is currently in operation. Our regulators are NOT able to pick up problems before they become major disasters.

      One problem is, that many multinational corporations make choices based largely on $$ not on what the community values once they are in operation and the people who are supposed to watch out for the citizens of this province are behaving in what I consider to be a reckless and irresponsible manner. That is what is exactly the same about Mt Polley and Ajax – the government regulation and assessment process is not good enough – Mt Polley was a spectacular example of that failure!

      I don’t agree with Ajax mine for many reasons, but lack of trust in the provincial government and the regulators is one of the biggest issues.

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