Kamloops won’t yet ask for review
The city has decided to stay the course with respect to the environmental-review process associated with the proposed Ajax mine.
A group of residents opposed to the mine asked council this week to ask Ottawa to appoint an independent joint-panel review for the project.
A panel review is one of two routes to take for the environmental-review process for a project like the Ajax mine.
The mine is undergoing a comprehensive study that includes a working group.
On the advice of Jen Fretz, the city’s sustainability and environmental-services manager, council opted to continue with the study for now.
“I think it would be prejudging the proponent, to be honest, for us to support a review panel at this stage,” Fretz said.
She noted the city is better served for now with the study and working group, but can ask for a review at a later date based on more information provided by the proponent.
Typically, the comprehensive study has the proponent, in this case KGHM Ajax and Abacus Mining Corp., put together the vast majority of the information on the project, guided by regulations from the provincial and federal assessment agencies.
The study includes a working group, in which the city is taking part, that convenes prior to the information being released to the public.
Members of the working group, like the city, have the ability to comment on the information.
The working group also gives the city an opportunity to ask the experts in the provincial and federal government specific technical questions related to the project and mining in general.
A review panel is quite different in that it is a quasi-judicial system made up of three to five independent experts who sit on a panel.
The panel is appointed by both senior levels of government, with no municipal representation.
The federal environment minister can call for a panel review at any time during the assessment process if there is great public concern or the likelihood of significant environmental impact on a specific project.
Fretz argued there isn’t enough information yet to determine if the Ajax project will cause a significant environmental impact.
The panel is run from Ottawa and would come to Kamloops on a regular basis.
All sides in the project would have equal opportunity to voice their opinion to the panel, but Fretz noted the city would have no specific access to the panel.
In July, the city sent an 11-page letter to the mining company, consisting of questions the city wants answered as the project winds through the environmental-assessment process.
Located within the City of Kamloops boundaries and two kilometres from a pair of Aberdeen elementary schools, the Ajax mine operation would stretch 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.