KAMLOOPS - The independent experts hired by the anti-Ajax coalition have released their first report, and while it finds some strengths in the application, it also notes some concerns around the air quality modelling and perceived health risks in the community.
Last summer the Coalition of Concerned Citizens raised more than $35,000 through a crowdfunding campaign to undertake its own review of the Ajax Mine application.
When the project application was submitted by KGHM Ajax Mining in January, the independent experts hired by the group began their study of the 18,000 pages of documentation. This week a 24-page report looking at the environmental impact statement was released by those experts.
Dr. Ken Froese of GatePost Risk Analysis completed the report, along with Erica Westwood, Ame-Lia Tamburrine and Marla Orenstein of Habitat Health Impact Consulting. Both companies are based in Calgary.
The report notes the environmental impact statement has both strengths and weaknesses. While the statement tries to address health in a broad and holistic manner, the independent experts say many aspects are deficient, potentially misleading or incorrect, which undermines the overall assertion there will not be meaningful impacts on human health.
Among the concerns is that data was not presented clearly and is inconsistent, does not address psycho-social factors such as risk perception, mitigation measures for addressing mental health and well-being are not included and there is no mitigation for addressing the concerns around doctor recruitment challenges the project could cause.
The experts also note the statement is missing a human health risk assessment in event of catastrophic scenarios such as dam breaches, a proper look at the perception of risk, the influence a population influx would have on crime rates, drug and alcohol misuse, sexually transmitted infections and the social fabric of the city.
The report recommends air quality assessment parameters and assumptions be confirmed and models rerun where necessary, sufficient data on mortality and fine particulate matter be provided, using other mines such as Malartic, Highland Valley Copper and Mount Polley to provide direct comparison and discussion, conducting a health impact assessment using a ‘community health lens’ and including an impact of perceived risks.
It also suggests health impacts should look beyond just lack of illness or disease as a quality of life marker by using aggregate impacts on health.
“It is this holistic aspect of evaluating a project such as the Ajax Mine that, combined with credible discipline-specific assessments, has the chance of addressing many issues that affect people’s lives in the broadest sense,” the report concludes.
The report does note numerous aspects of the evaluation are well done and clearly documented, most notably the human health risk assessment, which appears to be reasonably conservative aside from particulate matter data.
The coalition will be submitting the report to the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office as part of the public feedback period, which ends April 11, in the hopes the review will add to the concerns already raised by SLR Consulting Ltd., the company hired by the city to undertake a review of the application.
If approved, the proposed open-pit copper and gold mine will operate on the southwest edge of the city. The provincial and federal assessment agencies are expected to decide whether to approve the environmental application, decline it, or ask for more information, once the review period ends this summer.
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