EDITORIAL – Town hall proves Ajax study was worth the investment

Paul Draycott (right) of SLR Consulting, and Dr. Kamran Golmohammadi of Interior Health at Ajax meeting Monday night.

An Armchair Mayor editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

I TRUST the glib-tongued editorialists and commenters who preach the supposed folly of spending a half million dollars on an independent review of the Ajax mine will reconsider after Monday night’s public meeting on the resulting report.

Several hundred people were at the meeting, patiently waiting for two hours while the report’s findings were highlighted. When it finally came to questions from the crowd — which took another two hours plus a bit — both supporters and opponents of the mine praised SLR Consulting’s balanced findings.

Let’s not forget that KGHM Ajax paid the first $300,000 towards the cost of the review, with City taxpayers on the hook for another $200,000 when KGHM refused to pay the rest. For $200,000, those taxpayers got their money’s worth.

The focus of most of the questions was on the potential impact to human health, particularly with respect to dust, with concerns about property values a close second. Paul Draycott of SLR went over the report category by category, ranging from vibration to water quality to socio-economic issues.

On the dust question, and KGHM’s contention it can achieve 90 per cent mitigation, Draycott said, “It’s not typical for mine sites to commit to 90 per cent. We’re not saying it can’t be done.”

The verbal report, and the questions from residents, helped flesh out the written report published last week on the City’s website. Often, Draycott was able to clarify the meaning of the findings outlined in the written version, sometimes correcting misunderstandings on the part of the questioners.

Those who complain about the review being done at all insist it was a waste of taxpayers’ money, but those same complainers are likely among those who say opinions about the project need to be based on fact and science, not emotion.

The SLR review was all about fact and science. It didn’t make assumptions about anything; it based conclusions on the information put in front of it.

Now there’s no reason for anyone, including the holdouts, whether residents or members of council, not to know where they stand. The review was costly, yes, but it was well worth the investment.

About Mel Rothenburger (5864 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.

5 Comments on EDITORIAL – Town hall proves Ajax study was worth the investment

  1. Hmmm. I am not sure. I still stand by my concerns that the study should not have been funded in part by KGHM. I really think the whole SLR exercise was waste of money. The Stk’emlupsemc Te Secwepemc Nation (SSN) did a much more comprehensive review than SLR did, finding similar areas of concern as SLR, but greatly elaborating upon the findings with an actual panel hearing. I am convinced that if Kamloops Council had been at those SSN hearings every day (I went to every hour of the SSN review), it would have concluded that an open-pit mine in this area is a poor idea at best. There is no way the 90% dust suppression can be achieved. And at the meeting on Monday, the SLR consultant could not name a single mine where 90% suppression could be achieved, stating “one somewhere in South America, I think…”. That was a very telling and very disturbing answer. I did not need a four-hour meeting (although I stayed the whole time and listened to every word); I heard that comment and I knew Kamloops will be in trouble—and Pipsell will destroyed—if this mine goes in.

  2. And another very important thing to note. The ugly albeit visible lime/green shirts were an obvious but not astute device to circumvent the rules of the meeting. How far is KGHM prepared to go to bend all the unfavorable rules?
    Also disturbing is the thought of an ex-law enforcement official in charge of all this.

  3. It was a good presentation, but I would hesitate to say that everything was based on facts and science. In particular, I found the discussion on property values somewhat loose. Mr. Draycott
    seemed to imply that with big industrial projects, property values may initially take a hit but will eventually rebound. As far as I know, there aren’t a lot of studies which support this. I have seen studies that suggest that initially property values decline, but then later return to their previous rate of appreciation, the net effect being that the growth curve has simply been shifted down. The loss in value remains nonetheless.

    One of the things I found lacking in SLR’s presentation was a more refined measure of risks and uncertainties (and there were a lot) and their potential impacts. What risks should we pay more attention to? Some risks carry a bigger impact than others. E.g. dust. They mention that there is some risk that health professionals may leave if the mine is approved, but they made no attempt to estimate the impact of this. If we lose 20 doctors in Kamloops, that’s a disaster.

  4. The first impression, still with me the day after, was the SLR presenter needs to join Toastmasters ASAP…the same of which cannot be said for our very own acting mayor. Mr. Singh actually did a fine job at chairing the meeting despite some occasional mumbling.
    The second impression, still with me the day after, was KGHM may not find their gold after all, but for half-million dollars, SLR did find their own little pot of gold already!
    But of course, considering how potentially devastating this project is going to be for Kamloops, the $200,000 needed to be spent.
    Personally, when I heard from the SLR presenter that the “community image” is not likely to suffer, my jaw dropped and it is still sort of down.
    It is unfortunately true that “perception is not reality but perception is everything (or at least very important)” and it (perception) plays (and increasing into the future) an important role in preparing economically for our future well-being. Lake front properties will never be a reality and the tailing pond ain’t ever going to be a Caribbean get-away.

  5. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend meeting last nigh, due to a conflicting meeting, but I look forward with great anticipation to future comments.

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