May 06, 2015 - 8:28 AM
KAMLOOPS - There were many opinions to be heard this week as city council tackled New Gold’s New Afton Mine request to be allowed to increase its air discharge to reflect the mine’s new operational status.
City staff advised council to agree to New Afton’s request, which the Ministry of Environment asked for city input on. The recommendation came with a provision that both the ministry and Interior Health Authority agree there poses no health risk and air quality at the mine be constantly monitored.
The recommendation sparked a rather heated debate amongst council members.
Coun. Tina Lange was quite concerned the ministry said, quite succinctly, they had not yet evaluated New Afton’s report and did not have representatives in Kamloops who could. While the councillor believes New Afton takes its worker’s health quite seriously, she felt very uncomfortable the responsibility to approve the mine’s request seemingly fell on council.
Those who opposed the motion — councillors Lange, Donovan Cavers and Denis Walsh — preferred to hear back from the health authority before rendering a decision.
Public Works Director Jen Fretz explained the ministry was not unwilling to provide feedback, but the process has changed. A representative body, perhaps from Victoria, would offer their opinion after council makes a recommendation. She noted it is within council’s right to ask Interior Health for additional feedback, but since there are only sixty days to respond to New Afton’s request, and the authority might not grasp the urgency of the matter, she felt the city might run out of time.
Walsh brought up the question of technical expertise. He echoed Lange’s concerns that neither city staff nor council were not experts in this matter, and felt much more information was needed before any decision could be made.
Coun. Ken Christian countered this view and summed up the views of those who voted to carry the motion to provide consent with the amendments. He said the bottom line was council was acting as a referral agency. While he took some time to discuss his personal views of both the mine and the environment, his point that council was asked to make only a recommendation stood firm.
Both the Kamloops Moms for Clean Air and Kamloops Physicians for a Healthy Environment also wrote letters expressing their concern as well.
Council voted six to three in favour of staff’s recommendations to provide consent to the request with the amendments the other parties agree there poses no health risk and air quality at the mine be constantly monitored.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015