LETTER – Experts express environmental concerns about Ajax

Old Ajax pit. (Image: KGHM Ajax photo)

The B.C. Environment Assessment Organization has recently posted some new information from our government scientists regarding the KGHM Ajax proposal to put an open-pit mine on the edge of Kamloops. The experts express serious concerns about the possible effects on our air, water and groundwater.

One of Kamloops Physicians for a Healthy Environment Society’s primary concerns has been regarding air quality, and from the new information we focussed on the topic of air quality. In his review, Mr. Ralph Adams, Air Quality Meteorologist says, ”… there is still large uncertainty in the model output. I am unable to supply upper bounds for the uncertainty except to say that it is larger than the accepted factor of two that is used for the Calpuff model.” He goes on to say “In my opinion, the uncertainty in the model output for the Ajax is far larger due to the uncertainty in the emission factors than that due to the dispersion model.” So if you cannot define these emission factors more clearly, the output by the mine operation could be much higher than predicted. Models have uncertainties – as KPHES has been saying all through the stages of this application – they are not studies of a working mine, but mathematical predictions.

The review also states that KGHM has not accounted for the likelihood that dust production will be different in the summer and the winter, during blasts and piling waste rock. These differences mean that we still do not have good information about what could be produced by the proposed mine.

Mr. Adams points out that Air Quality Objectives have been written based on 24 hour averages because most monitoring data is reported in that format. But he is careful to say, “This does not mean that there is not a health effect due to shorter periods of high concentrations, but that scientific studies are not yet able to evaluate it.” This is why we have to pay attention to short-term changes in weather conditions that could lead to spikes of air pollution in the city.

KGHM Ajax has assumed “…that the suppression of dust on the haul roads will never fall to less than 90%.” However, Mr. Adams states that “…neither I nor my colleagues at Environment Canada agree that the study supplies adequate evidence that 90% dust mitigation can be maintained in the conditions expected at the proposed Ajax mine.” He goes on to say that a reduction from 90% to 80% would result in double the emissions.

The review explains that it is not certain that the company can actually achieve the 90% target as it has not been demonstrated that they can do this in a dry environment like the one in which we live.

In the summary, he states: “Short term dust events are likely to occur under dry summer conditions. These are common at other mines and similar facilities. It is unlikely that these events will have a significant effect on air quality statistics as they are so short-lived, but they will be noticeable and are considered a significant nuisance by the public.”

This information is very important for Kamloops residents who have been assured that there will be no impact by the mining company.

We strongly urge everyone to read these documents, to learn what the Ministry of the Environment experts have to say about the application, and then draw their own conclusions.

Link to Documents

on behalf of
Kamloops Physicians for a Healthy Environment Society

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8 Comments on LETTER – Experts express environmental concerns about Ajax

  1. tony brumell // May 5, 2017 at 9:21 PM // Reply

    I have not seen any figures or test results indicating how the emissions might be the Kamloops /Thompson river valley during significant inversion events.
    It stands to reason that very small particulate matter would remain suspended even in the calm winds during inversion events .This already occures when slash burning or forest fires send smoke into the valley ,where it may hang in the air for days.The particulate from the mine may be many times more toxic than wood smoke and do much more damage to those who are already compromised.
    there are reports and thesis that indicate the irreversible damage to Jacko and Edith lakes would occur because of fallout from the blasting.This would be worse during winter when 5 months of blasting fallout will accumulate on the ice of these local lakes and then be introduced all at once to the lake when freshette occures.I believe this event would in all likelyhood make the lakes uninhabitable by most forms of aquatic life,both vertabrate and invertabrate.

  2. Thank you, Dr. Calder.
    If I understand this correctly, it appears that the Ajax mine won’t just be where their maps show it will be. The mine will have an effective footprint of multiple times the actual area depicted on their maps and by their models simply because of the fallout created from airborne particulate matter.
    Unless they use “zero emission” methods instead of diesel powered haul trucks, part of the pollution will be in the form of carcinogenic diesel fumes.
    This should fit well into the overall scheme of public education since there are elementary schools close by and downwind from the mine site.
    What has bothered me most is that we don’t seem to have any real say in all of this as the “process” continues.
    A lot of people do NOT want to be exposed to this stuff, no matter how sweet and smiley the proponents and politicians who are supporting this insane venture.

  3. Regarding these “Sponsors Content” articles appearing in Kamloops This Week, you may want to file a complaint with the Canadian Advertising Standards you can find it by googling. They have a user friendly complaint form and they will acknowledge quickly.
    These “stories” written by KGHM and paid for by KGHM are basically being presented as a news article rather than a paid advertisement. Yes, KTW appears to be hard up if they have to revert to this in order to obtain new advertising dollars, how disgraceful !
    This type of “fake news” should not be supported by the local news provided, full stop.

    • This area is about to re elect two liberal, pro Ajax candidates. That tells me that there is a much stronger pro side.

      • Good idea, but perhaps a complaint to the BC Chief Electoral Officer is also warranted. KGHM’s info ads are being run in conjunction with the election campaign and they are thinly disguised propaganda for the BC Liberal Party. Ajax is a huge election issue in Kamloops so any paid advertising involving Ajax may fall under the rubric of election spending. Is KGHM registered under the Elections Act?

  4. A few of the more disturbing quotes from the letter include

    “the modelling predicts hourly average PM10 values in Aberdeen area of 1000 µgm-3.”

    “I have never experienced a dusting event where measurements were available and showed an hourly average in the range of 1000,µgm-3”

    “it would have significant local effects including a reduction in visibility, noticeable dust deposition on surfaces, and eye irritation.”

    Doesn’t that just sound wonderful?

  5. So there will be dust events that are irritating and noticeable if KGHM is allowed to proceed. That sounds a lot different than what KGHM has been writing in their “sponsored content!” Why doesn’t the government have rules regarding what KGHM can say? Why isn’t KGHM required to tell the unvarnished truth to the public? We shouldn’t need to rely on volunteer groups and our city SLR meetings (thanks to the city for sponsoring these as they are needed, but it shouldn’t have been needed and we shouldn’t have to pay for it) to have important information like this disseminated.

    So irritating dust could impact many other variables like health and attractiveness of our neighbourhoods, yet KGHM wants to claim everything will be fine without offering any financial guarantees? Not cool!

    Is there information like this about other parts of the application as well? Obviously we can’t trust KGHM to tell us.

  6. There you have it, the scientific expertise we all were waiting for…despite all the “sponsored content”, the glossy brochures, the appreciation parties and the large bumper stickers…

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