KAMLOOPS — Council united in frustration Tuesday afternoon as they approved two separate motions asking for the Environmental Assessment Office to step up and help the residents of Kamloops better understand the proposed Ajax mine.
Back in May, city councillors asked the office to host a public session to provide clarity on the process for Ajax Mine consideration but councillors got nothing substantial in a recent formal response.
“I’m disappointed in this response… it seemed the indication from the province was that we should have more public information sessions,” Mayor Peter Milobar said. “I didn’t think it would be a year to get it set up.”
Coun. Donovan Cavers agreed, calling the letter ‘disappointing’ and the lack of willingness to host a public meeting ‘quite startling.’
More than 40 people packed the council chambers, along with members of council, staff and media, and clapping and cheering filled the room as each councillor lent their voice of displeasure but no cheer was louder than that for Coun. Ken Christian when he proposed a motion to respond to the letter.
“Two things strike me. It’s complicated. And it’s important to Kamloops,” Christian said. “I’m not satisfied they’ve just brushed us off. This is not good enough for the city of Kamloops.”
Council will respond saying public engagement in 2015 is not good enough and that councillors demand a representative come and explain the application process to the public sooner rather than later.
Council members also requested a public input session following major changes to the footprint and tailings storage announced by KGHM International for the Ajax proposal.
The Kamloops Area Preservation Association says it's a significant enough change to call for public input. Spokesperson John Schleiermacher said last week he was upset the changes bypass the public and go straight to a technical committee to review new requirements.
Public Works Director Jen Fretz said the meeting was simply to inform the group of the changes and give some direction for a new draft of the requirements.
“At that meeting they indicated based on the initial review they didn’t think the changes to the document were sufficient enough to start the process again,” Fretz told councillors. “But they were clear if the working group felt anything they saw (was insufficient) in reviewing it they should bring that forward. The door is not closed.”
The proposed mine had the application information requirements approved last June but then recently overhauled the footprint of the mine. Maps of the new footprint were released to the public at the end of May and a month later KGHM Ajax Mine hosted three open houses to provide more details on these plans. Staff at the open houses said the new footprint would not impact the application requirements.
The company plans to have the the application submitted by spring 2015 and then six months are given for review, which includes a public comment period. The government then has 45 days to make a decision and if approved the mine will move into the permitting stage and then construction.
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