KAMLOOPS - The long-awaited decision on the proposed gold and copper mine near Kamloops is here — and it appears it's not happening.
The Environment and Energy ministries have decided not to issue an environmental assessment certificate to KGHM Ajax for the project.
A 1,700-hectare open-pit gold and copper mine was proposed, approximately 10 kilometres southwest of Kamloops.
According to a news release from the provincial government, the ministers concluded that taken as a whole, the potential and significant adverse effects of the Ajax project outweighed potential benefits.
The provincial government says in the release that it considered the Environmental Assessment Office's summary assessment report, along with their joint federal study with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, and the recommendation by the executive director of the Environmental Assessment Office not to issue a certificate.
Also considered were submissions from the Stk'emlupsemc te Secwépemc nation and the City of Kamloops. City council made their opposition to the project known earlier this year.
According to the release, the ministers noted key findings from the environmental assessment including adverse effects in areas like air quality and human well-being, on Jacko Lake and the surrounding area, social and economic value components, along with grasslands and ecosystems.
The environmental assessment office also concluded that several adverse effects were of moderate- to high-magnitude. There were also concerns surrounding significant adverse effects to Indigenous heritage and to the current use of lands and resources for traditional purposes.
"Given these conclusions and the close proximity of Ajax to the City of Kamloops, particularly the neighbourhood of Aberdeen, including an elementary school, the ministers concluded the adverse effects would not likely be mitigated to an acceptable level and would therefore present an unacceptable risk," the release states.
In a separate news release, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency says the project has been referred to Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Natural Resources Canada, who must now seek a final decision from the federal Cabinet on whether or not the project can proceed.
KGHM Ajax spokesperson Yves Lacasse released a statement on the company's Facebook page thanking the community for their support and patience.
"Over the past many years, our team worked really hard to demonstrate to government, the community, and First Nations that this project offered significant benefits," Lacasse said. "We are proud of the work we have done."
Kamloops city councillors Arjun Singh and Donovan Cavers also weighed in on the decision on social media.
Stk'emlupsemc te Secwépemc Nation praised the provincial government for their rejection of the mine. Chief Fred Seymour said in a news release the government is showing their commitment.
"We Secwépemc have never ceded or surrendered our rights or title," Seymour said. "Our ancestors stood firm as have we, for the benefit of our future generations and guests in our territory. The British Columbian Government, in choosing to refuse KGHM Ajax’s environmental assessment, are enacting their commitment to uphold the United Nations Declaration on Indigenous Rights and to implement the 94 calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission."
Earlier this year Stk’emlúpsemc te Secwépemc Nation voiced their opposition to the project. The nation is also calling on the federal government to uphold the decision and reject the project.
A statement from B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver echoes concerns from the Environmental Assessment Office.
“The assessment office identified significant and cumulative adverse effects from this project, including on human health in the nearby communities, and on Indigenous heritage,” Weaver said.
For the seven-page list of reasons given by the ministers, go here.
For the latest on the proposed Ajax Mine, go here.
— This story was updated at 3:27 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017 to include a statement by Stk'emlupsemc te Secwépemc nation and the B.C. Green Party on the provincial government's decision on the Ajax mine.
— This story was updated at 2:27 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017 to include more information about the Ministers's decision on the Ajax mine.
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