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More test blasts for Ajax?

Looking west over the area that would become a waste rock management facility if KGHM Ajax gets the go ahead to build an open pit mine on the outskirts of Kamloops.
February 18, 2013 - 11:50 AM

By Jennifer Stahn

A group formed to help oppose the proposed Ajax mine is now saying a controlled blast that took place two years ago was not nearly sufficient enough to ease residents concerns over future blasting, or to fulfill requirements of the environmental assessment process.

Kamloops Area Preservation Association (KAPA) spokesperson John Schleiermacher said in a released statement that KGHM Ajax did not define certain parameters heading in to the blast – most notably the size of a production blast – which means those previous test blasts do nothing to properly estimate the impacts of daily blasts.

Dr. Takis Katsabanis, an associate professor of mining engineering at Queen's University criticized Orica—the official name of the Ajax test blast report— in a report published by the university saying “a significant amount of information is missing.” In summarizing the concerns of of Katsabanis, Schleiermacher said the Orica report “did not demonstrate that it had accurately predicted effects of realistic, complex, full-scale blast designs, because the report failed to provide critical information such as diameter priming, and location of the drill holes, the rock type blasted, and the amount of explosives.”

With Ajax opponents using this latest bit of information to demand further testing the issue of whether the environmental assessment process is stringent enough has once again been raised. The report, Schleiermacher said, also ignored two other issues; the toxic chemical composition of emissions and the visual impact of a blast plume. He said the Orica report which he notes was difficult to obtain, and it's deficiencies is just “one of the many issues the government assessment agencies are trying to ignore or downplay.”

While the battle between the two sides continues and more bumper stickers appear around Kamloops both in support of and against the mine, not everyone is getting caught up in the drama. While in Kamloops last week provincial NDP leader Adrian Dix was not aware of the latest push from KAPA. Though he didn't offer up much of an opinion on the actual project he did say the “environmental process is in place for a good reason,” and that it's too soon to tell whether new test blasts will be required. Dix noted the delicate balance created by the project, saying there are things on both sides to be aware of. On one hand the mine would bring jobs a lot closer to home - because mines are not normally located so close to a city - but that proximity also creates an uncertainty because some residents are unsure about having a mine so close to their community, Dix said.

Ajax mine is set to be located along the southern and western edges of Kamloops, near Aberdeen. As an open pit mine it's expected to produce 109 million pounds of copper and 99,000 ounces of gold annually over a 23-year mine life. It's expected to produce 380 full-time jobs as well as tax revenue, royalties and benefits for governments, local communities and local First Nations groups.

Possible future development plans created for the Aberdeen area would see the mine located even closer to residences than already planned, with potential development areas going up along the side of Coal Hill – the buffer between the city and the proposed mine. Much of the area set to be utilized for the Ajax mine is currently agricultural land which the city has defined as a conservation area with agricultural land reserves.

Ton contact the reporter for this story, email or call (250) 819-3723.

News from © iNFOnews, 2013

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