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Tk’emlúps chief criticizing Ajax environmental assessment process

Tk'emlups Chief Fred Seymour.
May 07, 2016 - 9:30 AM

KAMLOOPS - A local First Nations chief says the province's environmental assessment for the proposed Ajax Mine is lacking.

Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc Chief Fred Seymour is criticizing the B.C. and federal environmental assessment offices, citing the B.C. auditor general’s report from May 3 which said the province is doing a poor job monitoring mines.

He says the Stk'emlupsemc te Secwepemc Nation, which represents Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc and Skeetchestn Indian Band, finds the provincial and federal environmental assessment processes "severely wanting."

Seymour has been participating in the First Nations panel review hearings on the proposed Ajax Mine, which wrapped up Friday, May 6. The 46-member panel has heard from experts on a number of issues over the past week, in addition to receiving presentations from KGHM Ajax Mining Inc., on issues such as health, air, water and economics.

The panel members will now deliberate on whether they support the application and make recommendations for the project, which will be submitted to the provincial and federal environmental assessment offices. The decision could take up to two months, Seymour says.

“Time is not of the essence,” he says. “We’re a patient people.”

The concerns and recommendations will be taken into consideration when the assessment agencies decide whether or not to issue an environmental permit for the Ajax Mine.

A schedule released by the nation earlier this year states a decision would be made by June 21. However, a temporary suspension issued for the mine application process this week will likely delay that decision, Seymour says.

The City of Kamloops has already agreed to delay their decision on whether or not to support the mine, to allow the hired consultants to gather more information from the proponent to provide a more complete overview to council.

The suspension was requested by KGHM Ajax Mining Inc. In the letter to the environmental assessment office the mining company cited a number of reasons for requesting a suspension, including filing responses to questions or requests brought forward by First Nations groups, government agencies and during the public comment period. Once the proponent achieves the goal of responding to all the questions and requests, the suspension will be lifted and the review period will continue.

If approved, the open-pit copper and gold mine will operate near Jacko Lake, an area the First Nations group filed a land title claim for in Septemebr 2015.

Read more 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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