KAMLOOPS - A couple members of council will get to go on a field trip after agreeing to tour open-pit mines next to other Canadian cities.
Following a presentation by Mining Watch Canada and a motion by Coun. Denis Walsh yesterday, March 15, council voted to send at least two of their members to Malartic, Que. and Timmins, Ont. to view the mines on the borders of those towns.
The presentation by Mining Watch Canada centred around the experiences of Diane Gangon, who discussed the open-pit gold mine next to Malartic. Gangon described a negative impact on the health of Malartic citizens and the environment around them due to dust and the noise of explosions. She said the impacts have led citizens of the small town to consider a class action suit against the mine operator.
Coun. Denis Walsh suggested a tour of the mine to get a look at the real life impacts of mines near cities while the proposed Ajax Mine is still in the assessment period. The motion was expedited during the meeting so councillors have the opportunity to make the trip before the city has to make a decision on whether or not to support the mine.
“You can say it’s a smaller city but I think there’s going to be some very similar situations that you can get some insights to,” Walsh said. “It’s a great opportunity, we should go see those cities.”
While the topography is different and it’s not perfectly analogous to Kamloops, Walsh said Malartic offers an idea as to what the proposed copper and gold mine on Kamloops southwest border could look like.
Coun. Arjun Singh asked they send councillors who have not yet stated a stance on the mine, because they are those most likely to have an open mind about what is observed and they may form a more solid opinion afterwards.
“That’s probably the people (who) should go because we’re already fixed in the idea that we think it’s too risky,” Walsh said.
Councillors agreed the cost should come from the council educational budget. Mayor Peter Milobar noted council has a budget of $50,000 for items like this, but they haven’t gotten close to using it all during his time as part of council.
Milobar also expressed concern the trip and city's participation in discussion about the proposed mine may create the impression the city has a say in the permit for the mine, while the decision rests fully with the federal and provincial environmental ministries.
The proposed Ajax Mine is currently in it’s public comment period which will wrap up April 11. The federal and provincial governments will then have to either approve the permit for the open-pit copper and gold mine, deny it or ask for more information. City councillors will make a decision in May on whether or not they voice support the mine.
If approved the mine will operate immediately southwest of the city for more than 20 years. The company behind the mine estimates thousands of jobs would be created during the construction and operation of the mine. Opponents have long questioned the health and environmental impacts of having a mine so close to the city.
Informational meetings are being held this week by the environmental assessment agencies and the city is hosting a session with its consultants to provide a preliminary report on the 18,000-page application. Ugo Lapointe of Mining Watch Canada and Gagnon will also be making a presentation to the Aberdeen Neighbourhood Association tonight, March 16, at Plura Hills United Church on Pacific Way, about living close to an open-pit mine.
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