Following is the response, dated Aug. 22, from Environment Minister George Heyman to Acting Mayor Arjun Singh regarding an invitation to come to Kamloops to discuss Ajax:
Dear Acting Mayor Singh:
Thank you for your email on August 16, regarding discussions with Kamloops council on the proposed Ajax mine.
As you are aware, the provincial environmental assessment process for the Ajax mine is drawing to a close. The Environmental Assessment Office’s (EAO) conclusions and proposed conditions will be referred to me and the Honourable Michelle Mungall, Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources (Ministers), following the public comment period.
My role as a statutory decision maker under the Environmental Assessment Act, as well as the role of the EAO under the Act, creates legal obligations and considerations related to administrative fairness. It would be inappropriate for Ministers to engage in discussions with parties regarding the Ajax project and the forthcoming environmental assessment decision at this stage of the process.
The EAO and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency have developed a joint Assessment Report to provide consistent information for federal and provincial decision makers. I would encourage you to review this full jointAssessment Report, along with the other draft material that the EAO has prepared and made available for public comment. I understand that this report presents their joint conclusions regarding the adverse impacts of the Ajax Mine Project, and also presents the specific views of many participants in the environmental assessment process, including the City of Kamloops. The EAO has also developed draft proposed conditions aimed at mitigating residual adverse effects of the proposed mine.
I am told that the Joint Assessment Report clearly states the opposition of Stk’emlupsemc te Secwepemc Nation (SSN) and the City of Kamloops to Ajax, describes the specific areas of concern raised by both parties, and provides an overview of the process undertaken by these parties leading up to their decisions. In the case of the City of Kamloops, this information is presented in the Joint Assessment Report beginning on page 13.
The 63-day public comment period on the joint Assessment Report and draft provincial summary assessment report, proposed environmental assessment certificate conditions and draft certified project description will end on October 10, 2017. All comments received by the EAO are being posted on the EAO’s website in near real-time.
At the conclusion of the comment period, comments will be summarized for federal and provincial Ministers, and will inform possible changes to the EAO’s draft documents. This is an essential part of the environmental assessment process.
I encourage comments and submission from all interested parties — especially the City of Kamloops — through the comment period currently underway. This is the best way to ensure that everyone’s voice is captured in the process and brought forward to Ministers in due course as we consider our decision regarding the possible issuance of an environmental assessment certificate for this project.
Once Minister Mungall and I have made our decision on the project, the entire decision package, including the Final Report, Recommendation of the Executive Director and our Reasons for Decision, will also be posted online to ensure the process is fully transparent.