Honourable B.C. Party Leaders Premier John Horgan, Andrew Weaver and Christy Clark:
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.
Kamloops City Councillor
Kamloops small business owner