Some Kamloops councillors not swayed by First Nations opposition to Ajax Mine

FILE PHOTO: Acting Chief Terry Deneault (left) and Chief Fred Seymour (right) announcing the local First Nations' opposition to the proposed Ajax Mine on March 4, 2017.

KAMLOOPS - The decision by the Stk’emlupsemc te Secwepemc Nation hasn’t swayed any of the undecided city councillors on the the subject of the proposed Ajax Mine.

Councillors Arjun Singh, Pat Wallace and Ken Christian, along with Mayor Peter Milobar, all say they’re still waiting before deciding their own position on the mine. The group, representing Tk’emlups and Skeetchestn First Nations, decided to not give consent to the mine on Saturday, March 4.

“I haven’t really made up my mind as to whether this would have determinative impact,” Singh says.

The First Nations group’s decision had an impact on how Singh views the project, but he says he’s not ready to make his own decision on whether to vote in support or opposition of the project yet. Near the end of last year Singh said he was close to making a decision. He was waiting for the next set of submissions from KGHM Ajax and wasn't going to wait for more back and forth.

Mayor Milobar is still waiting for the city’s consultants to report back to council with their findings and a more definitive view of the project before making a decision.

“I think it wasn't a big shock to many,” Milobar says. “They have a cultural lens with their review of it.”

The city’s findings may differ from the First Nations group’s due to a different decision making matrix, he says.

In an email, Christian says he’s committed to allowing KGHM Ajax every opportunity to prove their proposal. Wallace declined to comment.

Council currently sits divided on the mine, with four councillors voicing their opposition to their mine already and four undecided. Coun. Marg Spina, who is undecided on the subject, is currently taking a leave of absence from council while she fights breast cancer. If one of the undecided councillors decides to oppose the mine the opposition will have a majority.

KGHM Ajax, the company behind the mine proposal has posted a statement on the company’s website stating it appreciates the First Nations group’s efforts and wishes to collaborate with them in the future.

Other First Nations groups have voiced support of the Stk’emlupsemc te Secwepemc Nation’s decision, including the B.C. Assembly of First Nations and Shuswap Nation Tribal Council, both of which include the the Tk’emplups and Skeetchstn First Nations as members.

The mine's environmental assessment application is currently temporarily suspended while the mining company submits more information to the federal and provincial assessment offices. While the city and First Nations group can weigh in on the project, the final decision resides with provincial and federal ministers, though there is a land claim on part of the land the mine is located on.

For more on the Ajax Mine project, click here.

— This story was corrected at 12:45 p.m., Tuesday, March 7, 2017 to amend a quote from Mayor Peter Milobar. The original quote read: "I think it was a big shock to many." We regret and apologize for our error. 

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