Meeting mines public opinion
The company behind the proposed Ajax copper-gold mine near Kamloops knew going in the project would be a tough sell.
On Thursday night, (June 16), officials with Abacus Mining and Exploration, which is owned by Polish company KGHM, got to hear first-hand the opinions of some in the community on the proposed mine during a public open house.
About 300 residents turned out at the ] meeting at the Kamloops Towne Lodge, many to experss their concerns and opposition to the project, including worries like the effect the mine will have on air quality, traffic and the surrounding grasslands and lakes in the area.
The open house, part of the mining company’s environmental-assessment application, was sponsored by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) and the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office.
Sharon Antoniak lives on Goose Lake Road, less than two kilometres from the proposed mine site, and is convinced the project will have a negative impact on her property and the surrounding area.
She said the mine will also cause problems for the residents of Kamloops.
"In no time should they allow Kamloops to be a mining town," Antoniak said.
Dave Prehara also lives within a short walk from the mine site and came to the meeting without an opinion but with concerns.
"When a mine is going in your backyard, you can't help but wonder how you may or may not be impacted by it," he told KTW.
Prehara said he felt it was important to get correct information, adding there have been many rumours in the community about the project.
However, not everyone who showed up to the four-hour open house was opposed to the mine.
Ken Graf said he's worked in the mining industry for years and believes the project could be good for Kamloops if the mine can get community support and meet environmental standards.
Abacus president and CEO James Excell is also confident the mine will have a positive economic impact on Kamloops, suggesting the project will bring millions of dollars to the economy on an annual basis.
He said he hopes the open house and consultation process will help give residents a better understanding of what the company is proposing.
Excell said the company is trying to address environmental concerns in the community.
"We think it's an operation that can be handled," he said, noting strict controls on dust and vibration from blastingcan be put in place.
As for the environmental-assessment process, the open house was just the start of public consultation, which is divided into three stages.
Following the initial public-comment portion, which ends on July 11, the CEAA will prepare a plan for the environmental assessment.
That will be followed by another period for public comment, then the actual assessment will take place, followed by more public consultation.
After all the studies and consultation are complete, a final report will be submitted to the minister in charge for a final decision.
The mine operation, which would be located a couple of kilometres south of the city limits in Aberdeen, stretches west to the Coquihalla Highway and is part of the old Afton Mine site.
The mine is expected to produce about 50,000 tons of copper and 100,000 ounces of gold per year for the life of operation, which is predicted to be 23 years.