Council refuses to take side in Ajax debate

Looking west over the area that would become a waste rock management facility if KGHM Ajax gets the go ahead to build an open pit mine on the outskirts of Kamloops.

A petition brought forward to be accepted as information at a council meeting Tuesday afternoon had council appreciative of the effort of Steve Knudson to put together the petition and gather input but Kamloops city council still would only accept it as information.

Coun. Tina Lange and Coun. Donovan Cavers tried to get council to at least send a letter to higher levels of government saying council had received the petition as information and provide a “Reader's Digest version” of the comments the 2,418 petitioners had about why they oppose the proposed Ajax mine.

Mayor Peter Milobar and other councillors felt this might send the wrong impression and only confuse people as to their stance when a second petition comes in from those supporting the mine. It would only be fair to send a letter on behalf of those people as well and might look like council is flip-flopping on where it stands if letters are sent.

A second petition asking council to support the mine was also circulating on change.org and had garnered just over 1,600 signatures by the end of the day Tuesday, when it was supposed to close to keep with the same timelines as the opposition survey. As of Wednesday morning the petition was still active.

Milobar said he also likes the function of the petition and how change.org allows personal comments as to why they are signing. Coun. Arjun Singh agreed with Milobar about the format and the misunderstanding a letter could create.

“It's a very difficult, controversial issue. You have had to not be living in Kamloops or have your head in the sand to not know there are people for and against it. I think this is something we need to be careful about. I'm all for lobbying the process, but I don't want it to sound like we're supporting it (the petition,)” he said.

A discussion around the number of signatures from people outside of Kamloops also raised a few red flags for Coun. Nelly Dever, who claimed 40 per cent were not from Kamloops. Lange and Cavers both were quick to correct her math, noting maybe about 20 to 25 per cent are from out of town, though many of those still had family, went to school or are looking to possibly retire here. Milobar said he did not care one way or another about where the people were from that were signing it, just that they had a reason.

Though council would not support the motion to send a letter on behalf of those who signed the petition they did appreciate the work Knudson put in to creating and monitoring the petition. Everyone agreed to send a letter of appreciation to Knudson for his work and explain the petition would be considered as information during the review period following the environmental assessment.

Milobar pointed out that sending a letter on behalf of the petition was not was being asked of them. They were being asked to outright oppose the mine. This prompted Cavers to throw exactly that on the table and asked council to take a stand and oppose the mine.

The motion was rejected by council with only Cavers and Lange in support of choosing to oppose the mine now.

His display of asking council to do something other councillors have openly said they will not do just yet ruffled more than a few feathers as councillors raised eyebrows and later questioned his reasons for putting them on the spot like that.

Cavers has not been quiet about his stance on the mine and said he was simply trying to do what Knudson and the petition was asking of them.

To contact a reporter for this story, email jstahn@infotelnews.ca or call (250) 819-3723.

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