KAMLOOPS - The environmental application has now been submitted for review but a group of opponents to the proposed Ajax Mine are asking the government to halt the review until the full feasibility study is released.
The coalition, comprised of members from local, provincial and federal groups, refers to a recent release from Abacus Mining and Exploration, a partner in the KGHM Ajax Mining project, noting a feasibility study will not be released for up to 45 days.
According to Abacus, the feasibility study looks at the changes made since a January 2012 study, including the new footprint and changes to tailings storage, ore stockpiles, crushing station and water management plan. The technical report on the study is expected to be filed on sedar.com and the Abacus website within 45 days of the Jan. 13, 2016, release.
The coalition says holding back the study cuts into the public comment period and wants the federal and provincial governments to halt the review period until the full study is released.
“The problem with holding back this feasibility study for up to 45 days is that it cuts well into the 75 day public comment period on the Application for the proposed project,” Kamloops Area Preservation Association spokesperson John Schleiermacher says in a release. “All essential information for the project should be released at the same time. This is a question of due process. This is not full disclosure, and this is certainly not the rigorous, comprehensive and transparent process that we were promised.”
Schleiermacher points to the drilling results set to be included in the report and says it is not included in the application.
“In our opinion, the full set of baseline chemical information contained in this data base is not in the application,” he says. “Without this data, the science regarding the impacts of the toxic substances we know is in the rock, for example, arsenic, mercury, chromium, lead and asbestos, will not be sufficient to ensure public safety.”
Ugo Lapointe of Mining Watch Canada says there is key information in the feasibility study about technical and financial levels of risk, which is crucial information in assessing whether the company can pay for protection measures normally required on a large project on the edge of a city.
“The B.C. Government said it would adopt all of the Mount Polley Review Panel recommendations, including the requirement that a feasibility study be part of any mine proposals involving tailings dams,” Lapointe says. “Ajax is proposing to construct several tailings dams. We are therefore asking that the B.C. Government not begin the review period for the Ajax application until this key information is disclosed.”
Project Manager Clyde Gillespie says KGHM Ajax Mining has provided everything required by the assessment offices.
"I don't really understand the request," Gillespie says. "That application is written to fulfill the requirements of the (B.C. Environmental Assessment Office) and (Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency), they have deteremined in the screening process the application does meet those requirements and is ready to move into the technical review. I don’t really understand why they feel they need another report that is fulfilling a different report before they would feel comfortable reviewing the (application)."
Along with the preservation association and Mining Watch Canada, the Kamloops Physicians for a Healthy Environment Society, Thompson Rivers University Faculty Association Human Rights Committee, Kamloops Moms for Clean Air, Kamloops Concerned Citizens, Sierra Club of B.C., Thompson Institute of Environmental Studies, Thompson Watershed Coalition, and the Aberdeen Neighbourhood Association are calling for the halt on the review period. The coalition sent had a letter to the provincial and federal assessment agencies through a lawyer at Woodward & Company LLP.
After several years of delays, KGHM Ajax Mining officially submitted its 18,000-page environmental application yesterday, Jan. 18. The six-month review period has officially begun and includes a 75-day public comment period. The Environmental Assessment Office and the City of Kamloops will both be hosting information sessions and KGHM Ajax Mining plans on speaking with any interested community groups about the project.
If approved, the open-pit copper and gold mine will operate immediately southwest of the city, with plans to employ thousands of people through the construction phase and 23-year life of the mine.
For more articles on the proposed Ajax Mine, click here.
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— This story was updated at 12:12 p.m., Jan. 19, 2016, with comment from KGHM Ajax Mining.