EDITORIAL – SSN decision could be death knell for Ajax project

Sovereignty ceremony at Jacko Lake on Sunday.

Ceremony in June 2015 in which SSN declared sovereignty over Jacko Lake, also known as Pipsell. (File photo)

An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

THE DECISION by the Tk’emlúps and Skeetchestn Bands, acting together as the Stk’emlúpsemc te Secwépemc Nation (SSN), to formally oppose Ajax could well be the death knell for the project.

The SSN announced Saturday that its independent environmental review leaves it no choice but to reject the open-pit mine for the good of the two communities as well as of Kamloops, based on the cultural importance of the Jacko Lake area it knows as Pipsell.

SSN said it was forced to do its own review due to the inadequacies of the Canadian and B.C. Environmental Assessment processes.

Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Chief Fred Seymour and Terry Denault, Acting Chief of the Skeetchestn Band, were unequivocal in stating united opposition on behalf of their communities.

As Seymour put it, “We say no to this project in order to say yes to the health of our community members and our neighbours in Kamloops and surrounding area.” The Ajax proposal just doesn’t make sense, he said.

Some things, he said, just can’t be monetized.

Denault called it “our duty to our future generations” to hold the provincial and federal governments accountable.” The decision, he said, is for the greater good of all Canadians.

This is not simply a bargaining chip, as some guessed when the SSN first stated concerns about the project many months ago. The two bands say “No,” period.

KGHM had clearly been hoping it could work its way through the SSN’s issues and get to “Yes.” It asked for a pause in the environmental permit application process so it could answer questions that arose about the application, including those from the SSN.

But the SSN has now pre-empted the provincial-federal process. Supporters of the project can’t argue that everyone should “wait for the science” because the science is in, and the SSN has concluded that its own independent review makes it impossible to give assent.

Politically, it’s really bad news for KGHM. Even aside from whatever legal issues might remain with respect to rights and title over Pipsell, the SSN decision gives renewed vigor to other opponents of the mine, and puts the politicians who must give the final yes or no in a tough spot. Going against such a strong verdict from the SSN could be political suicide.

No doubt, the preference might be to ride it out until the election is over, but coming so close to the official start of the campaign makes it virtually impossible to ignore the issue on the hustings. There’s now huge pressure on political hopefuls who have so far sat on the fence to take a stand — and the forces of opposition have more sway than ever before.

Even if the stop or go button isn’t pushed until after the election, there’s major political risk. How can it be argued any longer that this project is good for the community when so many voices say it isn’t?

As the headline on the SSN’s statement on Saturday made it abundantly clear: “SSN says No to KGHM Ajax and Yes to Healthy People and Environment.”

There are many right now cheering that sentiment.

About Mel Rothenburger (5440 Articles) 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 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.

11 Comments on EDITORIAL – SSN decision could be death knell for Ajax project

  1. Michael Kahcur // March 6, 2017 at 4:59 PM // Reply

    Mr. Brumell, I have never seen any residences at the area you refer to. So to say they will destroy YOUR home is totally incorrect. I have been told by members of the SSN that I am an immigrant, and that as far as the eye can see belongs to the aboriginal people. I was born in this great nation as were my parents and grand parents. In my opinion, if the SSN want the unemployment rate for their people to go down, bring in the mine. This is not the Kamloops I grew up in, we want our young people to stay here, raise a family. But it seems every time some sort of economic windfall come’s knocking, the F/N go protesting. Again my opinion.

    • tony brumell // March 6, 2017 at 5:40 PM // Reply

      Maybe you should consider what the F/N were told when white man came along.”Don’t like it??leave.! This land now belongs to “us”Read some history .In other parts of Canada treaties were signed and F/N lost their land (often by treaties that were negotiated in bad faith).In BC no such treaties were signed.You learn a bit more about where you live.Incidentaly I am the 7th generation of my family in “SO called Canada”

  2. Stevan Puharich // March 6, 2017 at 5:21 AM // Reply

    thank you First Nations.

  3. The Ajax proposal to develop a huge mine and permanent toxic waste storage perched on a hill just above Kamloops is unconscionable. It is driven by greed for short-term profit, without serious concern for the safety, health and well being of residents and environment in the long-term.

    The Ajax proposal is reckless, irresponsible, and unacceptable. Thank you First Nations for taking a firm stand in the best interests of all residents.

  4. E M Helen McLean // March 5, 2017 at 12:18 PM // Reply

    Regardless of which side of the
    Ajax issue one may be on it is good to see a decision being made by leaders along with their compelling reasons to support it.
    I believe that not since the amalgamation of the North and
    South shores in 1967 have I seen such a controversial subject.
    Leadership should be about taking a stand, regardless of how controversial it may be.

  5. Who cares about what KGHM will do now? The bigger point is that the SSN have taken a stand for the environment and the well-being of people. Good for them.

  6. Why does it spell the death knell? The don’t own the land?

  7. I may be wrong, but I think that we all expected the aforementioned results from the SSN Panel Report. No surprises. Another reason why BC mining has slipped to number 8 in Canada.

    • tony brumell // March 5, 2017 at 11:15 AM // Reply

      It just never stops with you folk who don’t understand or care that this land and this project area does belong to first nations.What would you say if I decided to destroy “your” home.Would you just fold up your home and leave.It’s time we recognized the magnetude of the wrongs that were perpetrated (and still are) on the only people who actually care about the land.They are putting short term dollars (as if that were even true) aside for long term survival and quality of life for us all.
      I am deeply thankfull F/N had the courage to take this step and I suggest that those of you who are “PRO” mine at any cost take a real look at the impacts of this project.

      Thanks SSN

  8. Confirmation Bias; definition: see above.

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