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WALSH – Province should suspend permitting process for Ajax mine

 

Honourable B.C. Party Leaders Premier John Horgan, Andrew Weaver and Christy Clark:
 
I am a Kamloops City Councillor and small business owner actively engaged in the issues surrounding the possible approval of the controversial KGHM Ajax mine right at our city’s boundaries. I wish to hereby formally request that you suspend the permitting process for this mine until the province has undertaken a judicial review of British Columbia’s unacceptable, obsolete and unfair mining practices and regulations, followed by updating and reforms that are found to be necessary. 
 

Coun. Denis Walsh.

I wish to make you aware that Kamloops City Council appears set to come out formally in opposition to approval of the giant Ajax mine when the issue is debated and voted on in mid-July, which would align the city with the formal opposition of the area’s First Nations, Stk’emlups te Secwepemc Nation (SSN).

It is high time that the province does the right thing by acknowledging and accepting that this mine process should not be allowed to proceed in a discriminatory way following this formal disapproval by the SSN.  As you are aware, the SSN has filed a land title claim on the proposed mine property, known as the sacred Pipsell area.  Just last year the B.C. government recognized and upgraded the prima facie status on the SSN claim to Pipsell, while acknowledging that Ajax could seriously impact SSN’s Aboriginal Interests.
 
I also believe it is time that there be recognition of and corrections made regarding the failure to allow municipalities to have any control over mining activity which has the potential to impact that municipality.  Much to our dismay, Kamloops residents have found that the City of Kamloops is virtually powerless regarding the approval process and regulation of the proposed KGHM Ajax mine.
 
In addition, it is my belief that the project could pose serious risks to Kamloops residents’ life and health, thereby engaging human rights protected in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
                                                       
It is completely unacceptable that the Ajax plan for a massive tailings pond dam to be located in the hills directly above the City of Kamloops can be considered to be a legitimate part of the permitting process.  This is potentially a direct threat to the lives and security of the persons living below, for now and for all time, and a willful disregarding of evidence to the contrary.  In considering whether to approve activities such as those associated with the proposed KGHM Ajax mine, British Columbia needs to ensure that principles of fundamental justice are respected and that, in particular, there is a fair process in the case where the proposed activities may affect the right of life, liberty or security of the person.     
                                                                                                                                                 
I remind you of the catastrophic failure of the Mount Polley tailings pond dam two years ago and point out that the proposed Ajax mine tailings pond is to be up to five times larger than that of Mount Polley. Even with planned adjustments for thickened tailings and reduced water content, it is still a massive tailings pond with a dam, and we need only imagine the dire consequences had there been a city of some 100,000 residents just below Mount Polley dam.
 
I also remind you that the engineering panel commissioned by the province to study the Mount Polley failure unequivocally called for British Columbia to phase out storing water and tailings together behind dams, i.e., to eliminate tailings pond dams for new mines.  “Only this can provide the kind of fail-safe redundancy that prevents releases no matter what,” the engineers wrote.
                                                                                                                                              
In light of this, for the provincial government to allow the consideration of placing a tailings pond dam above Kamloops – apparently because it is the most profitable mining method – is an arbitrary abdication of your foremost responsibility to protect the lives and security of persons in the City of Kamloops.  
                                                                          
It is also completely unacceptable that the province has arbitrarily ignored the recent recommendation of Auditor General Carol Bellringer, and of the previous auditor general before her, that mine oversight in B.C. should be independent of the government ministry that issues permits and promotes mining investment, which is an obvious conflict of interest.  I remind you that the Auditor General’s 106-page report, released in May, 2016, was highly critical of the Ministry of Energy and Mines and the Ministry of Environment, for failing in their compliance and enforcement mandates.  “We concluded that the Ministry of Energy and Mines’ compliance and enforcement activities of the mining sector are inadequate to protect the province from significant environmental risks,” wrote Bellringer.
 
It is clear from this evidence-based, credible and authoritative investigation by the auditor general that independent monitoring and enforcement are critical to this mine on the doorstep of our city’s residents – something that can and must be addressed before the permitting process can legitimately go forward.   The ability of the Mines and Environment Ministries to monitor and enforce safe mining practices is a proven failure that must be corrected, and for you to arbitrarily continue to ignore this reality is an abuse of fair process with the very large potential to harm Kamloops residents. Canadian courts have recognized that government action that imposes serious risks to physical and psychological health engage Canadians’ section 7 interests and can be found unconstitutional where the infringement is not necessary for the fulfillment of a valid public interest objective. 
 
I must tell you, honourable leaders, that the facts found above lead me to believe that the B.C. government’s policies on the Ajax mine approval process are such that they shock the conscience of the public and are fundamentally opposed to the notions of fair process and justice held by Canadians.  I urge you to take immediate action to suspend the permitting process for KGHM Ajax until there has been a judicial inquiry and a reset of British Columbia’s mining regulations to bring them into alignment with the fundamental principles of justice and fair process, and I await your earliest response.  
 
Please be advised that certain mine opponents have begun queries to legal counsel about what legal remedies may be available should this flawed process go forward and result in the province’s approval of the permitting for the proposed KGHM Ajax mine.  
 
A hard copy letter of this document is being sent to each of you via Canada Post.
 
Respectfully,
 
DENIS WALSH                                                           
Kamloops City Councillor                               
Kamloops small business owner 
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ArmchairMayor.ca 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 ArmchairMayor.ca 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 WALSH – Province should suspend permitting process for Ajax mine

  1. Brock Nanson // July 16, 2017 at 4:20 PM // Reply

    Excellent letter! The selfish greed of the few should not be allowed to override the health and safety of the many. And if those few want to spitefully boycott the businesses of those who oppose the mine, so be it. That knife cuts both ways…

  2. ajaxtoobigtooclose // July 13, 2017 at 9:41 AM // Reply

    Extremely well written letter Mr. Walsh.
    Thank you for expressing so well the serious objections to the mine proposal that are felt so profoundly by so many of us in Kamloops.
    The proposed mine has been a blight on Kamloops’ future for too long.
    It is long past time for our provincial government to do the right thing and to initiate a judicial review of the obsolete, anachronistic and unjust mining practices and regulations in BC.
    Thank you again Mr. Walsh for your dedicated work in the service of a very large proportion of the population of Kamloops who view the potential economic benefits of the proposed mine as trivial and temporary in comparison to the long-term high risk of severe harm to all of us in Kamloops.

  3. This is a wake up call to all of those who support the mine, now it’s your turn to write a letter of support! The fact that these counsellors would vote in a manner that is obviously against the majority of people in their constituencies, ridiculous?

  4. Thank you so much for compiling and sending this letter. You are right on track We appreciate all the work you have gone to through all these MANY years. The whole issue is so disturbing to us and has caused us such angst for so long. We just want Ajax to go away FOREVER! This mine is too big and too close!

  5. Chuck Henderson // July 12, 2017 at 6:17 PM // Reply

    Denis Walsh does not speak for me.

  6. Bill Hadgkiss // July 12, 2017 at 5:28 PM // Reply

    THANK YOU DENIS for tying the many loose ends together in this mess. We should never have had to spend all of our time, energy, research, dreams, and hopes in futility. The BC Mineral Tenure Act is involved. Victoria should have been aware before approving the City of Kamloops to grow into the Aberdeen SW area. Were the lights out in our Capital and our City which allowed mining permits and building permits for the same chunk of dirt.

    Currently, rules for improving development to be safer are being ignored when the extreme sizes are considered as mentioned regarding Mt Polley. Imperial Metals’ Lacustrine is said to be 2m thick x 10 m wide that caused the dam to rotate sideways and let go. KGHM’s Lacustrine is buried beneath the SWRSF, South Waste Rock Storage Facility, and is visible in their post closure drawings. Over 20m thick and 400m wide, on a slope toward the TSF, Tailings Storage Facility. Does KGHM have plenty of time to get out of town before things begin sliding…?

  7. oh and what is the name of your small business I will not shop there get the mine done already

  8. This mine should never have been considered and should not be approved. The science does not demonstrate that it is free of risk for the Kamloops community and, in my opinion, the proponent has demonstrated that it is not trustworthy.

    Why in the world would we want a project that may harm our neighbours? The money and jobs are simply not good enough to make this project palatable.

  9. I am sure the Province is quaking in its boots at the prospect of your threat of legal action.
    And, “shock the conscience of the public”, what hyperbole!!!

  10. Alan Forseth // July 12, 2017 at 4:30 PM // Reply

    Enough already… get the dang mine built. We know you and others will never satisfied but enough time has gon by with review after review. Kamloops needs good well paying jobs — that US what drives economies

    • What drives economies is war and low interest rates…but that’s beside the point.
      Kamloops needs better planning and a defined vision for growth and long term prosperity. A huge mine and an even bigger tailing pond lasting for generations, will work against boosting diversification from the highs and lows of resource-driven economies.
      This project has the potential to further disrupt our albeit feeble attempts at becoming a desirable destination where quality of life, environmental stewardship and innovation are the prime factors of said desirability.

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