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Kamloops mayor surprised by sudden end to community benefit negotiations with Ajax

April 08, 2016 - 10:31 AM

KAMLOOPS - Negotiations for a community benefit plan between the City of Kamloops and the proposed Ajax mine’s proponent have stopped without a deal made.

Mayor Peter Milobar says the city received a letter from KGHM Ajax Mining stating the mining company would be stepping away from negotiations with the city for a community benefit plan.

“I take this as KGHM saying we don’t need to talk to the city,” Milobar says.

The letter came as a surprise, as he was under the impression talks were going well.

“It was a one sided break down,” he says. “We were working through language and it seemed to be moving fine. They’ve chosen to walk away for the last month of negotiations.”

The negotiations were discussing a variety of aspects of the relationship the mine would have with the city if the proposed project is approved, Milobar says, including, but not limited to, financial benefits. He says the items discussed were mentioned in the environmental application the mine’s proponent has submitted and included community benefits of $100 million over the lifetime of the mine and issues related to heavy industry tax structure.

“There was a whole lot more going on in this agreement than just money,” he says. “Lots of moving parts.”

“We’re trying to get a handle on what the mine application means to the community in a broad sense,” Milobar says. “It makes you wonder how committed to those things in the application they are.”

Negotiations started when the application was officially submitted to the provincial and federal environmental assessment offices in January with plans to wrap up before the May 9 city council decision on to whether or not to support the mine. The mayor was joined by Coun. Dieter Duty and Coun. Pat Wallace initially, but Wallace was replaced by Coun. Ken Christian after she was injured in March Milobar says.

Because the city received the letter just before the regular council meeting April 5 he says it wasn’t discussed then but will be a part of the next council meeting April 12.

In an email, KGHM Ajax Mining external affairs manager Yves Lacasse states the company is leaving negotiations because of concerns the financial discussions happening in the benefit agreement with the city would skew people’s perception of city council’s upcoming decision and the current environmental assessment.

“We did not want to be seen to be trying to influence the city’s decision making in any way with promises of financial benefits,” he writes.

Milobar says those concerns hold no water and points to the recent signing of a community agreement in regards to the proposed Site C dam near Fort St. John as an example of similar negotiations during a similar period of time in relation to a major project.

Lacasse says in the email KGHM Ajax will continue philanthropic work it has been doing and when the proposed mine is built money will be distrubuted through an advisory panel.

The environmental assesment for the propsed mine is currently in its public comment period, which ends April 11. The assessment offices will decide during the summer whether to approve the mine, deny it or ask for more information. The city currently has an independant consultant working to collect information for city council to see before their May 9 decision. 

Find past stories on the proposed Ajax mine here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Brendan Kergin or call 250-819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2016
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