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AJAX – ‘We urge you to take action to suspend the permitting process’

Kamloops City Coun. Denis Walsh has filed a notice of motion on the environmental assessment process for the proposed Ajax mine. Here’s the full text of the motion, which will be debated at the council’s next meeting, and his proposed wording for a letter to provincial party leaders.

August 15, 2017

Presented by Councillor Walsh

NOTICE OF MOTION for August 29, 2017

Recommendation for Council to consider that Kamloops City Council ask the leaders of the three political parties in British Columbia to suspend the environmental assessment process for the controversial KGHM Ajax Mine project.

Whereas… there is a failure of the current process to respect First Nations rights.

Whereas…there is failure to allow municipalities to have any control.

Whereas…with the release of the Ajax Mine Project Summary Assessment Report it appears the Cities concerns have not been heard. It is apparent there is a lack of accommodation in this report for the Cities list of conditions regarding the risks and uncertainties that this project presents to our community.

Whereas… there is a likelihood that the City and residents will face detrimental effects if the KGHM-Ajax Mine project receives a permit to operate on the edge of our community.

Whereas…there is a failure to eliminate new tailings pond dams as recommended following the Mount Polley mine disaster.

Whereas…there is a failure to separate monitoring and enforcement activities from the Ministry of Energy and Mines, as recommended by the last two Auditors General.

Whereas… the leaders of the new provincial government are being asked to make it a priority to review and reform “an unacceptable, obsolete, unfair environmental assessment process.

Whereas… the report of the expert engineering panel convened by the province to study the Mount Polley disaster, calls for the province to phase out storing water and tailings together behind dams:

Whereas…there have been two major reports that have recently demanded an inquiry into B.C. mining practices.

Whereas… the public has lost confidence in the province’s ability to protect the environment and communities from poor mining activities.

Therefore…be it resolved that Kamloops City Council is asking the leaders of the three political parties in British Columbia to suspend the environmental assessment process for the controversial KGHM Ajax mine on Kamloops’ doorstep until there has been an inquiry into and overhaul of “unacceptable, obsolete and unfair” provincial mining regulations.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
SAMPLE LETTER (open to edits)

To: “Premier John Horgan” <john.horgan.MLA@leg.bc.ca>; “B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver” <andrew.weaver.MLA@leg.bc.ca>; BC Liberal Deputy Leader Rich Coleman
Cc: “Prime Minister Justin Trudeau” <pm@pm.gc.ca>; “Environment Minister Catherine McKenna” <ec.ministre-minister.ec@canada.ca>; “BC Mines Ministry” <MEM.Minister@gov.bc.ca>; “BC Environment Ministry” <env.minister@gov.bc.ca>; “Sunny LeBourdais” <sunny@stkemlupsemc.ca>; “City Council” <citycouncil@kamloops.ca>

August 29, 2017

Honourable B.C. Party Leaders Premier John Horgan, Andrew Weaver, and Deputy Leader Rich Coleman:

Kamloops City Council wishes to hereby formally request that you suspend the permitting process for KGHM-Ajax Mine project 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.

I wish to make you aware that Kamloops City Council formally rejected the giant Ajax Mine proposal in mid-July, aligning our City with the community-centred decision made by the area’s First Nations, Stk’emlups te Secwepemc Nation (SSN) on June 11, 2017, who who have a land claim on the area.and also said no to the KGHM-Ajax Mine project.

Council members and concerned residents were very uneasy about the perception of the actual decision-makers if City Council came out in strong opposition to the mine as we considered a proposed to provide a list of conditions along with our rejection. There were concerns a community benefits agreement along with a list of conditions would undermine or water down our opposition. Given we have no authority in the decision making process we had a responsibility to do our due diligence to protect the City, should the mine be approved, despite our strong opposition alongside the SNN rejection. There were heated debates among Council members regarding whether to accept, in principal, a community benefits agreement along with negotiating a list of conditions, as some thought it would weaken the City’s position. The majority of Council felt the pressure that they had absolutely no choice.

On August 08, 2017 the BCEAO released their Ajax Mine Project Summary Assessment. While we have serious concerns that the report does not address uncertainties and risks identified by City experts regarding adverse effects on our air, water and groundwater the report also revealed another cause for concern. The report says: “The EAO is aware that, on July 17, 2017, while the City of Kamloops council voted to oppose the KGHM-Ajax Mine 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.” The above statement by BCEAO now confirms that those earlier concerns on Council and in our community were indeed valid, for the report seems to be using the community compensation agreement as a counter to Council’s strong vote to unequivocally reject the Ajax Mine project.

The fact is, KGHM-Ajax Mine project failed to get a social licence to operate on the edge of our community with over 90,000 residents. This is a strong rejection by both levels of government in our community, the area’s First Nations, Stk’emlups te Secwepemc Nation (SSN) along with Kamloops City Council.

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 both local governments. As you are aware, the SSN formally rejected the mine after a 18-month review of over 20,000 pages of information and over 300 reports including the KGHM Environmental Impact Statement / Application and has also filed a land title claim on the proposed mine property, known as the sacred Pipsell area.

We 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 our 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.

We 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 close to 100,000 residents just below Mount Polley dam.

We 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. We 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.

We must tell you, that the facts found above lead us 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. We 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 we 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.

Respectfully,
Kamloops City Council;
Mayor Arjun Singh (Interim),
Councillor Patricia Wallace,
Councillor Tina Lange,
Councillor Donovan Cavers,
Councillor Dieter Dudy,
Councillor Denis Walsh.

(PLEASE SEE LINKS TO REFERENCES BELOW)

REFERENCES

SSN Submission to CEAA Expert Review Panel: “SSN Lessons from the Land: Written Submission” Link to report: http://eareview-examenee.ca/wp-content/uploads/uploaded_files/dec-22-ssn-lessons-from-the-land-ceaa-expert-panel-report.pdf

http://stkemlups.ca/files/2013/11/2017.08.09__SSN-Media-Release-re-Me7ePipsell_Ta7aAjax-EAReport.pdf

Link to Documents https://projects.eao.gov.bc.ca/api/document/58dd2ac67fe5730019c2c5b6/fetch

Link to story: https://armchairmayor.ca/2017/05/02/letter-experts-express-environmental-concerns- about-ajax/

http://eareview-examenee.ca/ wp-content/uploads/uploaded_ files/6.-ssn-letter-to-can- 2015.11.30-ssn-to-can- ministers-re-ssn-ajax-project- environmental-assessment.pdf
(NOTE: “SSN Declaration of Title” dated June 21, 2015, documents the province’s recognition of SSN’s strong prima facie rights and title claims in the area of Ajax, and also the province’s acknowledgment that Ajax could seriously impact SSN’s Aboriginal Interests)

http://vancouversun.com/ business/local-business/b-c- auditor-general-slams-mining- sector
“The report’s chief recommendation is the creation of an independent and integrated compliance and enforcement unit outside the ministry of mines.”

Link to report: http://www.bcauditor.com/sites/default/files/publications/reports/OAGBC%20Mining%20Report%20FI NAL.pdf

Link to Report: http://www.elc.uvic.ca/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/2016-03-02- MiningPublicInquiry_2017Mar8.pdf

https://www. mountpolleyreviewpanel.ca/ sites/default/files/report/ ReportonMountPolleyTailingsSto rageFacilityBreach.pdf
(NOTE: Please see 9. “Where do we go from here?” p. 120)

Public Inquiry Formally Requested to Investigate B.C.’s Shoddy Mining Rules

A Breach of Human Rights – The Human Rights Impact of the Mount Polley Mines Disaster, British Columbia

Report Link http://miningwatch.ca/sites/default/files/toward_financial_responsibilty.pdf In May 2016, the UBCIC’s Report Towards Financial Responsibility by economist Robyn Allan showed that the BC Government is enabling a dangerous disregard for environmental monitoring, reporting and protection among mining companies by letting them off the hook for the full costs of environmental reclamation – leaving taxpayers liable for more that $1.5 billion.

http://www.kamloopsthisweek. com/kghm-ajax-to-stick-to-wet- tailings-pond/
“In wake of that recommendation, KGHM Ajax stated publicly it would reconsider dry tailings storage — something contained in its original plans, but later rejected due to cost and other considerations.”

Report Link: http://miningwatch.ca/sites/default/files/2016-04_ajax_application_review- miningwatch_canada.pdf A report by Mining Watch Canada concludes that the Ajax open pit mine project, “does not make economic sense” and “represents an unconscionable risk to investors, governments and the public.” The watchdog organization recommended that the mine should not be permitted and that an investigation be undertaken by the BC Securities Commission for inadequate disclosure of risks and costs.

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About Mel Rothenburger (4931 Articles)
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.

8 Comments on AJAX – ‘We urge you to take action to suspend the permitting process’

  1. I agree with Cara.
    Because a person is against having this huge mine so close to an established city does not mean they are against mining. This one is too big and too close and there are very real concerns.

  2. ajaxtoobigtooclose // August 19, 2017 at 3:23 PM // Reply

    Good work Mr. Walsh.
    Thanks for your hard work for the good of all the Kamloops area, and against the tyranny of the mining regulations and environmental assessment process.
    The proposed mine is far too big and much too close.
    Thanks again for speaking out to protect us.

  3. We want the mine, come on people, if you want the mine it’s time to say it out loud,please leave a reply.

  4. Hard to believe that 90,000 people are opposed to the mine and that city council speaks for the entire city. It would be interesting to know where the silent majority are in all of this. Must be summertime, and everyone is out of town. Given the type of provincial government that is now power, it is likely that they will reject the mine, through the assistance of the Green Party, they are in power and that is all one can say.

    • Pierre Filisetti // August 19, 2017 at 8:57 AM // Reply

      Larry:
      The “silent majority”…come on now, either you speak up or you put up.
      We can’t have any argument stalled on the speculations of what the silent majority may or not think.

  5. I don’t want it suspended. I want it turned down. The BC Libs could be re-elected in the next election and the same ideologues that got us to this point could be the decision makers. This process needs to be over to allow our community to move past this divisive issue and begin to come together and heal.

  6. Linda Bourque // August 19, 2017 at 6:41 AM // Reply

    To the people against Ajax…. you cite environmental issues yet you drive cars, used cell phones etc… Where do you think the raw product come from for your lifestyle!! Hypocrite!!!

    • I am not a hypocrite, actually. I agree with responsible mining for the products that we need to move forward with a greener society. I also agree with metal recycling.

      That said, the Ajax mine is not consistent with responsible mining. It is too likely to cause impacts to many citizens of Kamloops and pushing it through when the benefits are for few and the risks are for many is simply not ethical, imho.

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