By MEL ROTHENBURGER
Director, Electoral Area P, TNRD
The Thompson-Nicola Regional District could slam the door on the Ajax open-pit mine, but the provincial government could open it again.
A report to the TNRD board of directors, written in response to a recent delegation from the Aberdeen Community Association, laid out the authority of the regional district with respect to the mine proposal.
Director of Development Services Regina Sadilkova’s report reviewed various aspects of the permitting process for mines, Ajax in particular.
She said the TNRD has the power to deny an Agricultural Land Reserve exemption to KGHM-Ajax, the mine proponent. However, she explained that KGHM could appeal the decision or go to the province to override it.
The mine requires Agricultural Land Commission approval for both non-farm use across the permit area and permanent exclusion in the pit area.
The TNRD could act as a “gate-keeper,” she said. But, “pursuant to the Significant Projects Streamlining Act, the Province always has the ability to override all local government authority.”
The most direct sphere of Board of Directors’ decision-making in regards to Ajax is arguably consideration of the ALR application. The mine requires ALC approval for both non-farm use across the permit area and in the case of the pit area… permanent exclusion. Given the Board normally considers both these applications and can act as a ‘gate-keeper,’ overlapping ALR approval is the most direct authority. The Board has not used its power to outright deny and thus stop any ALR applications; rather, we have recommended to the ALC panel to deny an application. While we have not received an Ajax ALR application as of the date of this report, the ALC application process has been discussed with the ALC and Ajax officials. Finally there is a caveat to all the preceding: pursuant to the Significant Projects Streamlining Act, the Province always has the ability to override all local government authority.
I was also interested in what the report had to say about smelters, since the possibility the project might eventually be expanded in that direction has been a concern to some residents.
Sadilkova said the TNRD could prevent one from being built, as it would be subject to zoning.
Noise is another area in which the TNRD could be involved. TNRD already has a noise bylaw that would likely have to be amended to include the noise from mining operations, and then be used on a complaints-driven basis.
None of the above, of course, means the TNRD would make any such decisions, only that it could.
The report also looked at issues such as soils removal, development permits and traffic.
The KGHM-Ajax environmental permit application has passed through the public input stage and is awaiting recommendations from the provincial and federal governments. Staff from the two levels of government are preparing a summary report for consideration by the cabinet ministers responsible.
Posts written in my role as a TNRD board member do not purport to be objective, and my opinions are not necessarily those of the TNRD.