KAMLOOPS - With his tour of eastern Canadian mines wrapping up, Mayor Peter Milobar believes there was great value in the trip, even though he remains uncertain about the proposed Ajax Mine.
Milobar says the trip to open-pit mines in Sudbury and Timmins in Ontario and Malartic, Que., helped cut through assumptions being made in Kamloops and gave him a look at options which can help the community, including mitigation efforts and real time monitoring.
"I'm taking time to process it all and factor it in with our own local conditions," he says, adding KGHM Ajax Mining Inc.'s plans and new information will continue to play a major role in his decision.
Real time monitoring by the community itself was something he finds interesting. The monitoring allows residents to see what the day to day operations are and call the mining company to question certain situations.
Mitigation efforts are also notable he says, with the mines putting a lot of effort in at a high cost.
He says Malartic gave him a good idea of what the Ajax Mine might look like.
“Malartic is smaller but processes about the same amount of rock,” Milobar says.
He says people in the communities they visited think the proposed Ajax Mine site is a fair distance from the city compared to their own, but they also understand the concern with prevailing winds, which affect dust concentration.
An important factor he witnessed was the working relationship between the mines and the city and some of the most important things he learned about were what mechanisms municipalities have found which work with mining companies.
As for concerns Coun. Denis Walsh voiced about provincial legislation, Milobar says legislation isn’t necessarily the most important regulation.
“What it really comes down to is the permit to operate and conditions on that permit to operate,” he says.
Milobar says while there are some people concerned with having a mine next door, he didn't see evidence the burden of the mines are felt by many people in the communities they visited.
“Those who do feel burden are passionate about it,” Milobar adds though.
Milobar and Coun. Tina Lange return to Kamloops today, May 4. Walsh returned earlier this week.
Council was planning to vote on whether to lend support to the Ajax Mine at a meeting next week, but voted to delay the decision after the mine’s proponent requested a temporary suspension of the application process to answer questions from the public, First Nations groups and government agencies better. Milobar sees this as a positive because it allows council to have more and better information when decision time comes.
He says negotiations on a community benefit agreement will likely restart next week as well, after they were cancelled and then reopened again in mid-April. A meeting was held last week to discuss future meetings, he says.
The proposed open-pit copper and gold mine borders on the city to the southwest. Currently the federal and provincial environmental assessment offices are in the review stage of the Ajax Mine environmental application, but may suspend the process while more information is collected. Once the review stage is complete the agencies can choose to approve the application, deny it, or ask for further information. If approved the mine is expected to be in operation for more than 20 years.
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