EDITORIAL – An underground Ajax? Don’t even think about it

New Afton minesite. (Image: Google Earth)

An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

I ADMIRE Coun. Donovan Cavers’ open mind but I find his willingness to consider even for a moment another Ajax application simply shocking.

Cavers, who was a steadfast opponent of Ajax right from the start, now says if a proposal was submitted for an underground mine instead of an open-pit mine on the site, he might not reject it out of hand.

He should. The Ajax proposal put Kamloops and the entire Thompson-Nicola through six years of conflict and fear. Theoretically, the company could appeal the government’s decision rejecting it, or submit a whole new application.

Cavers told me this week he doubts an underground mine would be feasible on the Ajax property, but the fact is we don’t know for sure. The New Gold mine 10 km. west of downtown Kamloops began life as the Afton open-pit copper mine.

When Afton’s productive years as an open pit ran out, New Gold Inc. took it over from Teck Resources and developed a block cave mining operation.

That mine, now known as New Afton, has quietly co-existed with the Kamloops region for many years. The reason isn’t simply that it’s underground — even the original open-pit operation was accepted by the community.

The reason is location. New Afton is not immediately next door to a high concentration of population. Neither does it encroach on a popular fishing lake or culturally significant area.

From the air, it is an ugly scar upon the land, but at eye level it’s largely out of sight.

Supposing Ajax went underground. Even underground hard-rock mines have significant dust and air pollution issues, tailings facilities, waste generation, and all the crushing and grinding accoutrements of mining.

No matter what kind of lipstick might be applied to Ajax, it’s too big and too close. Please, please don’t even consider putting us through another six years of stress to find that out all over again.

I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.

Mel Rothenburger’s Armchair Mayor editorials appear twice daily Mondays through Thursdays on CFJC- TV. His Armchair Mayor column is published Saturdays on and CFJC Today. Contact him at

About Mel Rothenburger (8669 Articles) 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 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.

5 Comments on EDITORIAL – An underground Ajax? Don’t even think about it

  1. Putting a mine underground relieves only one concern: airborne contaminants. It still leaves things like tailings disposal and groundwater contamination, which are equally worrisome environmental concerns. Not to mention the mixed bag of economic impacts: short-term employment increases, discouragement of alternative economic development, short-term real estate bubble followed by depressed housing markets on closing etc., etc. I absolutely agree: leave it alone and let it die.

  2. The name is right…CAVErs (Citizen Against Virtually Everything)

  3. Maybe young Jonathon is smoking too much of that now legal wacky tobacky.

  4. Ajax was never anything but highly marginal ore body.Open pit mining is the cheapest form of mineral removal.This mine didn’t have an ore body until last fall when copper went above $3 a pound.It is still of very limited economic interest.Mining underground produces just as much waste per tonne mined as open pit but is much more expensive. and the volumns of rock removed are a fraction of open pit metheods. In underground workings you need areas of high grade ore that will justify running drifts and passages to them.There is no high grade material in this mineralized zone.
    The mineral bodies of Ajax and Afton are not the same at all.Old Afton’s main copper ore was native copper (98% pure metalic copper. .Called direct shipping ore ).That has all gone and the main ore now ,as they dig toward Kamloops lake is Chalcho pyrite and Bournite, {from 35% to 58% copper and is not considered direct shipping ore.This is an ore body that KGHM can only dream of.
    Underground ?? Rubbish not even KGHM is that stupid.

  5. Given this about face, I think Cavers is in need of some helpful medication. Changing his mind like this is just an indicator that he really does not belong on council, or anywhere else where he can muck about in peoples affairs.

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