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Anti-Ajax city councillor has more concerns after tour of eastern Canadian mines

May 02, 2016 - 2:30 PM

KAMLOOPS - A Kamloops city councillor calls his trip to visit open-pit mining operations in Quebec and Ontario valuable, but says he has been left with even more concerns about mining legislation B.C.

Coun. Denis Walsh is on his way back to Kamloops after visiting mines in Malartic, Que. and Timmins, Ont. in preparation for a city council vote next week on the proposed Ajax Mine. He was on the tour with Mayor Peter Milobar and Coun. Tina Lange, who are now travelling to Sudbury, Ont. today to tour another mine.

Walsh, who has been a vocal opponent to the proposed mine, says the trip was very valuable and has highlighted some important issues mining towns face.

“The biggest discovery I found was how critical the wind direction is,” Walsh says. "In Malartic they have legislation that says if the wind is blowing towards the city they have to shut down the mine.”

He says in Timmins a community compensation agreement was required by legislation before a nearby mine was green-lit.

After hearing about the provincial legislation in Ontario and Quebec Walsh is convinced B.C.’s mining policies are are inadequate.

“If we’re going to be proposing urban mines it’s the responsibility of the B.C. government to change the legislation,” he says.

Walsh says the mining companies whose operations he toured are making sincere efforts not to harm the communities around them. However, he says mitigation of noise and dust at the Quebec mine in Malartic, which he was told is the richest in Canada, was concerning.

As for the economic growth predicted for Kamloops, Walsh is skeptical after hearing Malartic did not see a growth in population and still has a flagging downtown business core, although he was told the population did stabilize once the mine arrived and was paying taxes to the city.

Walsh joined the fact-finding trip to better understand mines which operate near cities and how the Ajax Mine might impact Kamloops. He proposed the trip after Mining Watch Canada brought a resident of Malartic to speak to city council in March.

The proposed Ajax Mine adjacent to the southwest border of Kamloops is planned as an open-pit copper and gold mine, similar to those near Timmins and Malartic. It's currently in the environmental assessment period of its permitting process, with federal and provincial environmental agencies deciding this summer whether or not to permit the mine, though they may extend the period and ask for more information.

City council will vote next week on whether to provide verbal support of the project or not. Their support, or lack of, will then be forwarded to the federal and provincial governments and may or may not be considered in the final decision on whether to approve the project, deny it, or ask for further information.

Find past stories about the proposed Ajax Mine here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Brendan Kergin or call 250-819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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