Health, property values and Jacko Lake topped the list of questions asked by residents who attended Monday night’s town hall meeting on the proposed Ajax mine.
Kamloops City council hosted the meeting to allow the public to ask questions about the independent review of the application for the open-pit mine south of town. Several hundred people attended the meeting at the Coast Hotel and Conference Centre, sitting through a two-hour presentation by SLR Consulting before spending more than two hours more at the microphones.
The meeting was relatively quiet, and the questions respectful. The City had emphasized the need for good behavior, but there was no reason to worry.
At one point, there was some scattered applause after a question, with Acting Mayor Arjun Singh chastising the crowd and threatening to shut down the meeting if it happened again.
While placards and signs were banned, a number of those in the room wore lime green “I Support Ajax” T-shirts, while others wore blue, for the Code Blue group that opposes it.
And, while people were supposed to stick to straight-forward questions, quite a few managed to get in a few points for or against the mine before Singh cut them off and insisted they ask a question.
Several of the questioners were doctors, members of Kamloops Physicians for a Healthy Environment, a group formed to oppose the mine. They asked a range of health questions such as impact on heart disease, mental health and, especially, dust pollution.
KGHM’s claim that it can achieve 90 per cent mitigation of particulates has been greeted with skepticism, and Paul Draycott of SLR said it’s a target few mines have met. “It’s not typical for mine sites to commit to 90 percent,” he said. “We’re not saying it can’t be done.”
In response to another questioner, he said the amount of dust that will be created by the tailings pond is hard to determine, but it will be a key contributor in addition to the haul roads.
Several questions related to the impact of the mine on Jacko Lake, and Draycott said seepage from the lake may have been under-estimated. He said additional studies on water loss are needed.
Despite various downsides, Draycott said the mine would bring economic benefits. “Overall we agree it will contribute to the economic growth and diversification of the Kamloops area and region.”
The term “mitigation” was used often, to the annoyance of some residents. “How many kicks at the can do you get to mitigate how many things … before we say enough is enough?” asked Sheila Park. Draycott replied that mitigation “is a process.”
All City councillors except Coun. Marg Spina and Mayor Peter Milobar attended the meeting. Spina, Milobar and Ken Christian are resigning for various reasons. While Christian was there Monday night, he will have resigned by the time City council makes a decision July 17 on whether to support the mine.