EDITORIAL: Has anybody been listening to us on Ajax?

An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

THERE’S ENOUGH in the joint federal-provincial report on Ajax to make you wonder whether anybody in senior government bureaucracies has been listening.

The book-length report, entitled the Joint Federal Comprehensive Study/ Provincial Assessment Report, released this week, acknowledges the damage that Ajax would do to First Nations rights and enjoyment of the land, but is complacent about environmental concerns, taking the position that mitigation measures will address them.

It notes key adverse effects on such things as water quality, fish habitat, noise and vibration but points to off-setting mitigation measures — design, monitoring, etc.

It confirms that the mine would likely cause “significant cumulative effects” to heritage and current use of lands and resources for traditional purposes but then adds, “For other value components examined under the former Act and B.C. Environmental Assessment Act, the Report concludes that the Ajax Mine Project is not likely to cause significant adverse effects.”

It also says, “The Agency and EAO are satisfied that KAM (Kamloops Ajax Mining) has adequately identified and considered the potential effects of the environment on Ajax. The Agency and EAO agree with KAM that appropriate design, best management practices, and adaptive management would be sufficient to address these effects.”

This kind of wording is undoubtedly what has the City and the SSN wondering why their objections to the project seem to have been brushed off.

But a single paragraph in a draft tandem report (Summary Assessment for Ajax Mine Project) from the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office, which is basically an overview of key findings in the joint report, should also be cause for concern.

It says this: “The EAO is aware that, on July 17, 2017, while the City of Kamloops council voted to oppose the Ajax project, Council also voted to accept the community benefits agreement from KAM. The agreement would provide $3.8 million per year to the City of Kamloops.”

This goes to the core of City council’s conviction that giving an inch on this project is tantamount to giving a mile. Council worried about the perception of the decision-makers if it came out in opposition to the mine but also attached a proposed list of conditions should the mine be approved anyway.

The reasoning was that it would weaken the City’s position. The above statement confirms that concern as valid, for the juxtaposition seems to use the community compensation agreement as a counter to council’s 5-1 vote against the mine.

The draft report then adds, “Ajax would result in adverse residual or cumulative effects to other environmental, economic, social, heritage and health valued components, but with the application of mitigation measures and legally-binding conditions, these effects would not be significant.”

While both the joint and draft overview reports offer assurances that all sources of input were analyzed, they very much give the impression that the overwhelming community opposition to the mine, led by City council and the Stk’emlups te Secwepemc Nation (SSN), deserve short shrift.

The good news, if there is any, is that the joint report isn’t the last word. It points out that the provincial and federal ministers who will make the decision can contemplate the report “as well as any other matters that they consider relevant to the public interest.”

The final public comment period, which opened Aug. 8, runs until Oct. 10. A strong message needs to be sent to the provincial and federal governments that the joint report is faulty and unacceptable.

About Mel Rothenburger (5775 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.

15 Comments on EDITORIAL: Has anybody been listening to us on Ajax?

  1. I agree with Mel, concerning the adage “…council voted to oppose the Ajax project….,[but] agreement would provide $3.8 million per year to the City of Kamloops”. It is just like a family who disagrees with ‘bride-purchasing’, but claiming that they have saved enough money for a bride for their son.
    The report’s statement of monetary agreement is irrelevant and in appropriate at this stage of the report.

  2. This is the letter I wrote to CEAA.

    I’m not going to reiterate the health concerns or the pros and cons of the proposed mine. I’m only going to point out this:

    There are at least two mindsets at work here in Kamloops – Anywhere, I guess. One is: Money is King,. Money can fix anything. Get money and get out.

    When are the people who are all for ruining the environment in the name of Almighty Money going to get it? You can preach reclamation all you want, but get your head out of the sand, people. How many abandoned/current mine sites-industry in general- have contaminated the surrounding land and water. Has money fixed that? Have you had to boil your water since that corporation left town? Are you or your children suffering from mysterious illnesses? No? You got your money and left. Money can’t fix everything. There isn’t a fix for this wildfire smoke we’ve been blanketed by for what feels like forever. Money gives you the choice to go find shelter; air conditioning; a beach somewhere; a mountain top. Yeah, that’s great for you, but what about your neighbour who doesn’t have that kind of money for a myriad of reasons. He or she like the thousands of us in this town have been sucking up the smoke because the typical middle classer is tied to his job, his house, his family, here. We live here. We chose to live here for so many reasons, none of which were to have a backyard mine. I moved here after the pulp mill was here. I have no right to complain about the pulp mill being here. I knew what I was getting when I moved here. You can bet I wouldn’t have moved here if there had been an open pit mine in Aberdeen. And if this mine is approved, I’m going to have to uproot my life here as soon as I get my own money to get out.

    The second mindset is Respect. For everything, everyone. Period. Someone tell me where they are practicing this, because that’s where I want to live.

    Leah Young


    Kamloops BC

  3. KGHM will not give up. ” wear ’em down,wear em’ down” and maybe many will just give up.We can,t give up on this one.I hope the Skeetch folks don,t give in to money.That kind of money always talks with a forked tongue.Maybe it’s time to reaquaint us all with the folks from Salt Lake City and the open pit mines of Peru.Most have no perception of how bad they are.
    It’s all about money.

  4. Bill Hadgkiss // August 14, 2017 at 9:30 AM // Reply

    It also says, “The Agency and EAO are satisfied that KAM (Kamloops Ajax Mining) has adequately identified and considered the potential effects of the environment on Ajax. Is this not backwards, ‘effects of the environment on Ajax’. No wonder we’re having a challenge getting KGHM and the EIEIO folks to see the light.

  5. Love Kamloops and its people to death, but in the big picture, how does Big Brother see us?

  6. There was considerable pressure across provincial ministries involved to rubber stamp this proposal, so we shouldn’t be too surprised by a whitewash job in the final assessment. It is consistent with past practice and past government. The unequivocal stand of First Nations, in combination with a new government that has a fresh mandate for change in environmental affairs and the convictions of critics guided by sound research should win out.

  7. Sham is the right word.I was a member of the community advisory group for five years.It was touted as a “first” in Canada.The public was being brought into the process.It was quite obvious we were being used as some kind of foil to aid the EA process.
    The people running the EA never had any intention to listen to or be guided by our thousands of hours of deliberation.They wouldn’t visit the site with anyone but KGHM officials.Peter Kent stopped anyone from KAPA from going on a tour of the site with him.At least three ministers turned down any meaningfull discussions with our city council.They allowed KGHM to direct public forums in any way they wished;so that they avoided public accountability.
    If they didn’t listen then, it’s to late to make them listen now.I gave fourty long tours of the area with out complaint.They wouldn’t come along when invited,Many politicians did and were without exception upset with the permanent damage that would be caused.(Including Todd Stone )who later had his mind mysterious changed and just as mysteriously as a newby became minister of something.
    The time to be heard is now when the new government may listen to the realistic and emotional appeals of those whose lives will be destroyed.It’s to late for those of us whose lives have already been destroyed but they may gain some sense of releaf if the new mines and environment ministers turn this down if only to prove that reconciliation should be reality and not just a “Liberal” word ,
    To all who care !!!Put those comments in to the ministers NOW.It’s the only chance you have of being heard and taking the sham/ shame out of this farce
    Thanks to all KAPA members who put their community first for six long years.

  8. It’s a giant kick to the groin to all the people who raised concerns over this mine. The assessment process is mere kibuki theatre.

  9. John Noakes // August 12, 2017 at 9:43 AM // Reply

    I wrote to several councillors about the “community benefit agreement” when it was being considered. I warned them that they have nothing to do with it.
    To me, it was like accepting 30 pieces of silver in exchange for the betrayal of our community.

  10. Trying not to sound ignorant, but could someone explain who actually the people who wrote this report work for. I briefly tried to look it up, but confused. If they are hired and work for the B.C. Government, then I would say they are looking after their jobs since this report was put together while Christy was still in power. Corporations do not donate to the Liberals out of the goodness of their hearts, its for a reason, and its obvious that the Liberals wanted this mine. Its mind blowing that the environmental damage done by Mt. Polley mine is considered as insignificant, if its the same people who say Ajax will be the same, I just hope that this government cares a bit more for the people and the environment than Christy’s government did.

  11. Jerome Farrell // August 12, 2017 at 8:51 AM // Reply

    Thank You Mel for your balanced overview of this recent report.
    I was thinking of all the good things I could write but then thought how sick I am of this process.
    Butting our heads against this well financed Corporation and big Government .
    This is just a long preparation to forcing it down our throats.
    I just can’t wait to stand with our FN brothers when they try to move in on Pipsel
    No means No

  12. One other thing, I have a major problem with the “Community Liason Group” idea. Citizens of our city SHOULD NOT have had to put in all the volunteer hours to date to learn about and fight this project. Should it go ahead, concerned citizens SHOULD NOT be expected to volunteer to try to keep the company accountable. There has already been way too much unpaid work by local citizens regarding Ajax. If the government thinks a liason group would be needed, it is a red flag that they are anticipating problems.

  13. Bill Hadgkiss // August 12, 2017 at 8:41 AM // Reply

    Community benefits = 11 cents each day per person.
    NewGold may be underground but it uses an outhouse for its waste as will KGHM Ajax, hence dust. The waste rock now produced is 10x that for the same quantity of ore as in Aftons day. This means 10x the toxic contents are disturbed so is 10x worse than when Afton operated in the previous century.

  14. Pierre Filisetti // August 12, 2017 at 7:26 AM // Reply

    The Community agreement…I never understood how Dieter Dudy claims to be totally and completely opposed to Ajax and then negotiating an agreement, a pitiful one at best.
    I cycle or walk through Kenna’s park regularly (when the park is open), on average once a week throughout the year. From certain locations in the park one can often see the dust from NewGold swirling around in the air.
    Juxtaposing for geographic differences and considering Ajax would be a much larger operation and open pit versus underground one can easily come to the conclusion the swirling dust will be a regular, unwelcome new reality to life in Kamloops.
    And never to be forgotten will be the eventual size of the tailing pond which will be huge and unreclaimable for decades while still be a daily source of much undesirable and toxic substances for said decades.
    The mining hole will put Kamloops in a hole.

  15. I have noticed major deficiencies. Off the top of my head:

    1) No robust critique or analysis regarding community vision and reputation
    2) No analysis of impact on mental health of nearby residents
    3) No guarantee for anyone regarding negative financial impacts e.g. property values
    4) No analysis regarding possible economic negative externalities
    5) No discussion regarding professional recruitment
    6) No discussion of nuisance dust events

    I am sure there are many more things missed, too – I don’t know enough to consider issues like habitat and ground water. This list is some of the more obvious deficiencies that simply defy common sense. It is almost like the BCEAO took the report written by the proponent and pretty well accepted everything the proponent submitted verbatim while ignoring the critical analysis of ALL other sources.

    What a sham.

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