The following is republished from the Area P Post, a blog by Mel Rothenburger, Director for Electoral Area P in the Thompson-Nicola Regional District.
By MEL ROTHENBURGER
Director, Electoral Area P, TNRD
The Thompson-Nicola Regional District will investigate its regulatory authority in connection with the proposed Ajax mine project that, if approved, would be built within its borders.
At Thursday’s (Sept. 21, 2017) TNRD board meeting, Kamloops Mayor Arjun Singh made a motion, which I seconded, to review the TNRD’s jurisdiction with respect to the mine.
The motion came as the board discussed a presentation from an Aberdeen Residents Association delegation, which as Area P director I asked the board several weeks ago to invite as a follow-up to a letter of concern from the association.
Randy Sunderman, Helen Newmarch and Gina Morris of the association told the board they’re worried about the potential impact of the open-pit mine, which is proposed by KGHM Ajax just south of Aberdeen in Area J of the TNRD.
Newmarch, chair of the Aberdeen group, said there are “grave concerns” about the planned project. She suggested the regional district can regulate such things as waste rock storage, noise and dust through bylaws, and urged the TNRD to look into “full use of your capacity.”
I pointed out that on previous occasions when I’ve asked staff about TNRD’s authority with respect to the mine, the response has been that it has very little.
CAO Sukh Gill said Thursday there may be “limited powers” the TNRD can use because mining is mostly a provincial issue.
Asked by other directors about potential costs of investigating the TNRD’s role in approvals for various aspects of the mine, Gill said it would only involve staff time unless the board decides to ask for independent studies on such things as noise. (The TNRD has a noise bylaw, for example, but it’s currently aimed at controlling problems like barking dogs and loud music.)
Singh said the TNRD should seek a clear understanding of its jurisdictional authority as soon as possible. “Be prepared,” he said.
Lytton Mayor Jessoa Lightfoot said such projects need regulation and oversight and “people see us as the first step.”
In response to a comment about the fact a similar step wasn’t taken with respect to the New Gold mine, she said, “I think that we need to do better and not look at history as the standard.”
“These are people’s lives out there,” said Kamloops Coun. Tina Lange. “If something can be done it should be done.”
One thing that might come out of the staff’s look-see is a reciprocal bylaw agreement with the City of Kamloops, at the suggestion of Clinton Mayor Jim Rivett. Such an arrangement might make it possible for TNRD bylaws to be used to respond to complaints from people within City boundaries.
Singh’s motion was carried on a close vote. In essence, it’s an effort to seek information on what controls the TNRD can put in place with respect to the mine. It asks that the review be carried out between now and “the end of the mine process.”
A report from the staff is expected soon, which will hopefully outline milestones at which TNRD jurisdiction would come into play.
A decision on KGHM’s environmental-permit application is expected from the provincial and federal governments this fall.