Ajax officials decide against private meetings
The company behind the proposed Ajax mine in Kamloops has decided to scrap proposed private meetings with city-council candidates.
KGHM Ajax and Abacus Mining and Exploration Corp. had called several candidates last week, seeking to set up private meetings, but a backlash from some of those candidates has pushed the company to cancel the plan.
John Froese, the community relations co-ordinator for Abacus, contends it was never the company’s intent to influence the political process.
“It was really not to underhandedly go in there and try to influence votes or something,” he told KTW.
“We can’t do that.”
Froese said the company viewed the meetings as an opportunity for potential future councillors to ask and receive information about the proposed mine south of Aberdeen.
However, even the mining company concedes it was an ill-conceived idea that will do little to help its image.
“I would say that probably wasn’t the best idea,” Froese said.
“By doing it the way we did it, it’s not going to help us.”
Opinion appeared to be split on the issue among candidates contacted by KTW.
Donovan Cavers was the first to speak out about the meetings after being contacted by a company secretary.
He argued it is in the best interest of the public that the mine project go through the assessment process in the most open manner possible.
Cavers said he thought it was “interesting” officials with KGHM and Abacus were going to be in town during the election period without notifying the public or media.
“Obviously, the fact they’re meeting one-on-one, they’re hoping to influence the opinions of those that are running for council,” he said.
Prior to the cancellation of the meetings, Cavers urged fellow candidates to skip private meetings with the company.
“I don’t see any reason to meet privately other than they [KGHM] don’t want what they talk about in the meeting heard by everyone,” he said.
Cavers suggested there would be no reason during his campaign to meet any group in private when it comes to a large issue like the mine, but he did indicate he would consider meeting privately with an individual on specific private matters.
The former federal Green party candidate has invited the company’s officials to speak to him at public forum on Oct. 12, at Thompson Rivers University House of Learning-Irving Barber Centre.
Coun. Tina Lange was also contacted to set up a meeting with KGHM officials, but said she would have suggested the company meet with all the candidates at once.
“We should all be out there trying to get as much information as we can, but I just think there’s a better way for them [KGHM] to do it for everybody,” she said, adding it didn’t matter to her if it was a public or private meeting.
Candidate Dennis Paget said he was not contacted by the mining company but, if asked, would prefer to meet in a public setting.
He suggested the company had an agenda in trying to meet with potential candidates.
“I think it’s inappropriate right now to try and lobby politician,” he said.
However, several other council candidates were interested in meeting with KGHM officials to discuss the project.
“I’m happy to speak with anybody who wants to discuss any subject,” said Ray Nyuli.
He was planning to meet with the company privately until the meetings were cancelled.
Nyuli said he wants to be as informed as possible, noting public meetings can turn into heckling sessions, which doesn’t help the situation.
Andy Philpot said he didn’t receive a call from the company, but would have met them privately.
He argued a private setting provides an opportunity for candidates to ask frank questions without the pressure of a crowd.
“I don’t want to be asking a question and have to deal with the crowd behind it,” Philpot said.
Nelly Dever had planned to meet with KGHM officials along with a campaign team member with a list of questions, then post answers on her web page.
She said if there was any suggestion the meeting was confidential, she wouldn’t have attended.
In light of the recent developments, Dever is now considering whether she wants to reach out to meet with company officials on her own.
“I think it’s a missed opportunity for a lot of candidates,” she said, adding a public forum would set a different tone than a one-on-one meeting.
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.