KAMLOOPS - The external affairs manager for KGHM Ajax Mining says they listened to community concerns over placement of the proposed Ajax Mine facilities but at least one group says the move announced earlier today does not fully address their concerns.
“It alleviates the concerns somewhat, but it doesn’t come anywhere near meeting all our concerns,” John Schleiermacher of the Kamloops Area Preservation Association says. “The biggest impact will be coming from the pit and that will be in the same place. The blasting, the vibration, most of the noise and dust will come from that.”
Schleiermacher feels the city has been played a ‘little bit’ by the company and points to 2009 and 2011 when alternative sites had already been identified for the tailings and waste rock facilities.
“I would’ve liked to have seen the results of the ore findings. I think we’re only getting about 10 per cent of the story… (and) they’re trying to make themselves look good by moving some facilities,” Schleiermacher says. “We don’t know what’s in that ore. I would assume they have found something they would like to mine and it could very well be closer to town.”
He believes the move may be more to make room for a larger pit than to appease the public.
“We’re just getting a very small part of their plan. They need to be honest with the people of Kamloops…. It’s very upsetting,” he says, adding, “Out of sight will not necessarily be out of mind.”
External Affairs Manager Yves Lacasse says the angle will change by about two per cent so they can extract more ore bodies but the configuration of the open pit will be the same.
“We are moving the facilities because we’re listening to the community, there was a lot of concern about proximity," Lacasse says, adding the plan is to keep the pit the same size, in the same location. “We think this is a much better project for the community, a better plan to put back to regulators.”
The company also plans to have a large dome, like Highland Valley Copper has near Logan Lake as well as a vacuum system to help keep the dust inside. They are also looking at any new technology that comes out that could be used to suppress the dust.
CHANGES WILL RESULT IN LESS DUST, NOISE
Lacasse explains the biggest changes in the footprint come from the movement of the tailings storage from alongside the Coquihalla Highway to south of the pit and will resemble Highland Valley Copper in having a conventional wet tailings storage facility. The north waste rock storage facility that was ‘very close’ to Aberdeen and Pineview was moved south and made smaller and the east waste rock storage facility was made about half the size. Plans are still under review to see if it can be made even smaller.
“The way we were spread out before would result in a lot of traffic on a lot of haul roads and create more dust,” Lacasse says. “We have acquired, or plan to acquire, bigger trucks… which will result in less fleet. Most dust would be from trucks travelling on those roads. With this plan right now roads will be close to each other, more compact, and there will be less traffic.”
He also notes everything is outside city boundaries now. Some of the facilities were within city limits prior. The visual impact of the project has also been reduced as a result of the changes with projections showing none of the facilities will be visible from the tower at the top of Mt. Dufferin in Kenna Cartwright Park now.
The company is now working with local biking groups to figure out the best way to create bike trails in the Coal Hill area along Aberdeen and Pineview close to where the waste rock storage facility was originally planned to be.
“We want to create an environment the public can use safely,” Lacasse says. “We’ve been engaged with various agencies, had a lot of meetings about this. We’re spending money to make sure this is done well, done right.”
The company will host open houses to discuss the new layout June 24-26. Times and location will be announced by mid-June. There will be separate stations and displays as well as a new 3-D model and table top display.
“We want to meet with the community,” Lacasse says. “The consultation process is ongoing on a daily basis. The feedback we’re getting is helping us make this a good project.”
KGHM Ajax Mining is standing by an internal deadline it has set to have the project submitted through the environmental application process by early 2015 with hopes of starting construction by the summer of 2016.
Meanwhile the preservation association sees these changes as even more proof a full panel review and an independent health risk assessment are needed.
“We have 90,000 people being played like a bunch of hillbillies,” Schleiermacher says.
The group plans to make sure the proposed Ajax Mine becomes a key point in the 2014 civic elections and will be bringing in high profile speakers over the next several months to help their cause.
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