There’s no question that signiﬁcant new standards are required for environmental assessments in B.C. However, the Ajax Project is deﬁnitely not an example of the type of standards that are desperately needed in this province.
As much as KGHM in its sponsored “news” report (Sponsored Content, ‘Ajax Project environmental assessment sets new standards for review of mining projects in B.C.,’ Kamloops This Week, April 9) would lead us to believe, the company’s environmental assessment application was so deﬁcient that it led to a large number of requests by government agencies (federal and provincial), community groups and individuals, and SLR (City of Kamloops consultants) seeking further information about KGHM’s technical studies.
In fact, now that KGHM has responded to public comments made during the public comment period last year, community groups remain concerned that their issues were not addressed, and this will lead to KGHM downloading risks to residents and the City.
It’s ironic that KGHM would tout the current environmental assessment process when experts in this area have requested that the Premier establish a Judicial Commission of Public Inquiry to rectify and improve mining regulation in BC.
In a formal request to the Premier on March 8 – which was accompanied by a very comprehensive brief – Calvin Sandborn (legal director of the Environmental Law Centre at University of Victoria) stated that there is “irrefutable evidence that the provincial mine regulatory system is in a state of profound dysfunction.”
He lists a series of major systemic failures that demonstrate the need for wide-ranging reform, some of which include the Mount Polley Mine disaster, the Auditor General’s devastating critique of provincial enforcement of mining laws, and recent studies that document how B.C.’s rules for environmental assessment fall far short of global best practices. See http://www.elc.uvic.ca/category/environment/mining-energy/
The provincial assessment process isn’t the only one in need of reform. The federal Liberals campaigned on a promise to revamp the federal environmental assessment process and the recently released Panel Review of the Federal Environmental Process highlights how inadequate the federal assessment process is. See https://www.canada.ca/en/services/environment/conservation/assessments/environmental-reviews/environmental-assessment-processes/building-common-ground.html
It’s no wonder, with the urgent need for changing these environmental assessment processes, the SSN conducted its own unique assessment process of the Ajax proposal.
Perhaps it’s time for Kamloops citizens, and especially local media, to join the broader discussion that’s occurring on the provincial and national levels. There’s no better time, since these ﬂawed assessment processes are the ones that will decide whether to allow a huge open pit mining operation next to our city.
No matter how much KGHM spins this as a new standard, in reality it’s a system we should all be questioning. With the provincial Liberals in receipt of $4 million in political donations from the mining industry, it would take substantial public pressure to force them to make necessary changes. This is evident from the rejection by Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett, on Tuesday last week, of Sandborn’s request.