An ArmchairMayor.ca 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.