KAMLOOPS - A figure released earlier this week pegging the cost to taxpayers of the proposed Ajax Mine at $6 billion was a 'conservative estimate,' according the authors of a year-long study. The costs could reach as high as $20 billion, they say.
Dr. Dennis Karpiak, an internal medicine and respiratory disease specialist, and Ken Blawatt, a former university professor, spent the last year gathering data and conducting interviews to compile the report on the potential costs of the proposed Ajax Mine. Earlier this week, they released some of the information—focussed on the $6 billion figure—and today released the details. The duo says they created the report for people who want more facts on the dangers of having a mine so close to town.
“This report represents 100 or more scientists,” Karpiak says. “This is an evidence-based report. This report is assembled by scientists.”
Karpiak notes the report is mostly derived by studying other communities that have been through this already—a mine in close proximity. Some of the conclusions are assumptions of the actual percentages and costs and could be considered more speculative, or 'intuitive,' they say.
“We’re dealing with absolute hard science,” he notes, adding: “Some of the minor conclusions are perspective… such as the preference of wine country in the Okanagan over an open pit city as a vacation spot.”
A breakdown of costs provided by Blawatt and Karpiak show clean up after the mine shuts down would cost $2.65 billion. They also peg health costs at $1.6 billion (largely from an increase in respiratory illnesses) and tourism would suffer by $200 million. Losses to real estate values and a drop in international student registrations and tournaments would result in another $633 million loss as well.
The duo notes that if the mine was 10-15 kilometres further away the impact would be much less.
“Most of the costs are associated with the proximity. The cost of dust and health are proximity, the costs associated with tourism is proximity,” Blawatt says. “So when we add up the $6 billion, over $5 billion of it goes away when the mine is away from a population as large as Kamloops…. Our major concern is this is a mine too close, that’s where the costs comes from, the damage comes from, that’s where the difficulties come from.”
Blawatt defends the use of estimates in the report, noting they used data and estimates the same way a business would forecast future sales.
“Our job is not to make people happy, our job is to say here is what we found, here’s how we developed our information. You can judge it on your own, you can question it if you want, refuse it if you want,” he says. “We’re saying mines next to a city are bad because here is what they do to the city, and then we made some estimates as to what effects will be on the cost.”
Blawatt notes while the pair support Kamloops Area Preservation Association, they wanted to keep this report separate from the group and received no funding or backing from the association.
KGHM representatives were not willing to comment on the report just yet and said they want to take a ‘thorough look’ at the report before making any comments. Earlier this week, spokesperson Robin Bartlett said they are still waiting for the facts to come in and they believe the report is based on ‘biased opinions’ and ‘assumptions’.
KGHM Ajax Mining is expected to submit an environmental application to the Ministry of Environment in the spring and Bartlett says the application will include a look at the potential impacts of the mine: Socially, economically and environmentally.
What do you think of their study? The entire report is below.
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