January 12, 2016 - 5:23 PM
KAMLOOPS - It took nearly an hour of back and forth between council members, but a vote allowing the public to again be able to speak about the proposed Ajax Mine during council meetings has passed.
A moratorium was put in place on delegations and public enquiries regarding the proposed mine during council meetings after council found the constant requests were bogging down meetings and taking them away from other city business.
With KGHM International, the company that owns the mine, set to submit the full application later this month though, Coun. Donovan Cavers wants to give the public another shot at getting in front of council. Cavers put forward a motion allowing the public wanting to speak on the mine to take part in delegations and submit official correspondence during the official review period.
Conversation went back and forth, with some council members not believing there is much more to offer at this point in the way of questions or information or that the public will be able to have a full grasp of the 18,000-page document during that time. There was also concern over the idea that the public isn’t being offered the chance to speak on the project.
“How in the world people would think they don’t have access blows me out of the water. To say the only way they can successfully communicate is with a mic in hand and a camera on is erroneous,” Coun. Pat Wallace said, listing they myriad ways people can get their voices heard, from social media and letters to the editor to emails and setting up at the farmer’s market. “I’m comfortable with the opportunities people have without coming here and grandstanding.”
Based on legislation, only four delegations are allowed per council meeting, with each delegation given 10 minutes to speak and then time for council to ask questions.
Coun. Tina Lange suggested they limit the number of Ajax-related delegation to two per meeting and put a limit on how long council has to engage with the delegate. Again, lots of back and forth was had, with council ultimately agreeing to the amendments.
Even after a majority five-tot-four vote, Mayor Peter Milobar expressed concern allowing these delegations would confuse the process, and leave him, as the one to keep the time limits under control, in the hot seat.
“This isn’t about other delegations, this is about us,” he said, noting council tends to take a long time to discuss issues, especially when it comes to Ajax. “To suggest this won’t bog us down, I think we’re fooling ourselves…. I’m very leery this is going to accomplish what we want. I think we’re in for a world of issues.”
Delegations will open up to Ajax-related commentary once the application has been submitted.
After about an hour of discussion at the beginning of the meeting, council also accepted the list of questions the consultant will look at during the review period, based on public feedback from the town hall and online survey. They also agreed to formally ask for an opinion from the Medical Health Officer on the application.
There was concern over how the scope of questions was decided and whether SLR Consulting should look at the submitted concerns considered by staff to be outside of scope as well.
The Environmental Assessment Office officially accepted the scope of the application as being complete, allowing KGHM to submit the application in full, which the company has said it plans to do later this month.
Once the application is submitted, and accepted by the provincial office as complete, the review period will begin. The province, KGHM and the city all plan on hosting information sessions during that time and KGHM also plans to make plain language summaries available to the public.
If the proposed open-pit copper and gold mine is approved it will operate on the southwest edge of Kamloops and the company estimates it will provide hundreds of jobs during the life of the mine.
To read more on the proposed Ajax Mine, read here: infotel.ca/tag/ajax-mine.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2016