A TALE OF TWO TOURS
It’s sweltering in the Inks Lake parking lot.
One by one, most of the members of Tony Brumell’s Ajax mine tour have crowded together at the back of his truck, where a cover provides the only shade on site.
Brumell, a Kamloops environmentalist and a former miner himself, has been running his tour off and on throughout the spring and summer.
First, for a few friends who wanted a better sense of the site, then for anyone in the city who was curious about what he calls “the emotional impacts” of the proposed Ajax copper and gold mine.
On Sunday, July 29, that’s six people and KTW.
Overall, he says he’s taken more than 80 people through the area.
Taped to the sides of Brumell’s truck are projections of the mine at buildout, maps of the site and newspaper articles.
On the truck bed is a petition calling on the federal government to put a stop to the mine.
“This is the future, so it’s all speculative,” he tells his audience.
“We don’t know a damn thing until it’s happened. This is all speculation. It’s speculation on their [Ajax’s] part, too.”
Unlike Ajax’s tour, Brumell’s stays mainly in the parking lot and off private mine property.
From here, he’ll spend the next several hours painting a grim picture of Kamloops’ future over the mine’s lifespan and beyond.
“This will be an environmental graveyard,” he says, hands sketching out the lines of the proposed waste-rock and tailings piles, which he estimates will appear about level with Sugar Loaf Mountain from the Inks Lake lot.
“Three major headstones and the grave will still be open.”
Brumell has nicknamed his talk the “Western Approaches Tour,” a nod to a naval battleground from the First and Second world wars.
And, as he describes his vision of the area’s future, a battleground is what it resembles.
While the north and east waste-rock piles will be reclaimed, “there isn’t a single tree on any of these reclaimed areas, because trees won’t grow on that junk,” Brumell says.
He pictures ground compressed by rock piles, too dense for groundwater to flow through, and rock piles filled with cadmium, asbestos and arsenic that could eventually leech into Kamloops Lake, given a century or so.
For Jacko Lake, Brumell’s predictions are more immediate.
“Jacko Lake will die in five to 10 years.”
Working at a mine in Timmins, Ont., Brumell says he remembers seeing shockwaves from blasting obliterate birds with unlucky flight patterns. He expects that same sort of shockwave will travel through the water of the lake.
“It probably won’t kill the fish, but it will stress them to the point where they won’t take bait,” he says.
Despite the grim predictions, what seems to impact his audience the most is a simple recitation of numbers pulled from Ajax’s own materials.
The biggest gasps and head shakes from the group come as Brumell is describing the boundaries of the tailings pile, which would rise just next to Inks Lake.
As the tour moves out of the parking lot, for a quick peek at Jacko Lake, he instructs the group to get into their cars and drive a small gravel road toward the Coquihalla Highway — about half the length of the tailings pile, he says.
Bumping along over potholes at 20 km/h, the drive lasts through one-and-a-half songs and a commercial break on the radio — enough time to drive, fix your hair, drive, check for any new text messages on the cell phone and then to drive a little bit more.
Because of the day’s small turnout (while more than 20 people have registered, few have braved the heat), the tour breaks up on the shore of Jacko Lake, but Brumell pushes on to the last stop.
A short drive down Goose Lake Road and he’s overlooking the mine site from the south, from the hills behind Sharon Antoniak’s house.
Wearing a “Stop Ajax” T-shirt, Antoniak admits right up front to being emotional about the issue.
“I’m a NIMBY,” she says.
If the mine goes ahead, she says the atmosphere of her secluded home will be destroyed.
She’s worried for her grandchildren, who attend Pacific Way on the edge of Aberdeen, closest to the mine.
“I doubt anyone would put an elementary school on the access road to Highland Valley Copper,” she says, referring to the massive mine near Logan Lake.
“It’s not going to just be me that’s affected.”
Brumell says stories like Antoniak’s are what originally got him interested in the Ajax process.
It’s these type of losses he’d like those taking his tour to really consider — how will the city feel without this patch of grassland or that family of deer traversing the area? Without being assured of a silent jog past Inks Lake on a weekday morning?
“The biggest thing about this is emotional impact,” he says.
“To say we can’t discuss the emotional or visual impact of this mine is sticking your head in the sand.”
Brumell doesn’t have another tour planned at this point, but is encouraging people to grab a seat on the official Ajax bus, trust their emotional reactions and draw their own conclusions.