Car ride sheds little light on Ajax mine
A few weeks ago, Environment Minister Terry Lake was on Twitter, telling followers he was on a mini-road trip on Vancouver Island with his federal counterpart, Peter Kent.
It could be assumed the biggest topic of discussion during the car ride would be the controversial Ajax mine, which is proposed for the southern edge of Kamloops, right next to Aberdeen.
However, Lake said, there wasn't much discussion about the project .
"I just let him know that city council had a discussion and that they were setting up a meeting with him, and he was aware of that through [Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP] Cathy McLeod already," Lake said.
"That was about the only discussion we had."
But, Lake did express his concern to KTW over Kamloops city council's recent move to ask for a joint-panel review of the project, a request that was echoed this week by the Thompson-Nicola Regional District.
Specifically, the Kamloops-North Thompson Liberal MLA questioned whether council made its decision based on full information about the process.
He suggested they did so relying on details from an outside group.
Last month, council passed a resolution to ask the federal environment minister to set up an independent joint-panel review for the mine.
It is still up to Kent to approve a review.
A panel review is one of two routes that can be taken during the environmental-review process for a project like the Ajax mine.
The mine is undergoing a comprehensive study that includes a working group.
Members of the Kamloops Area Preservation Association (KAPA), a group opposed to the proposed mine, told council the comprehensive study is not the best method to review the project and argued it could be more difficult to have a a panel-review request granted the longer the city waits to ask.
The majority of council ignored the advice from the city’s sustainability and environmental-services manager, Jen Fretz, who recommended the city continue with the study for now.
Lake urged council to confirm all information about the panel-review process before proceeding.
Though some favour Ottawa's environmental-assessment approach, Lake argued the provincial process — when harmonized with the federal government, — actually may be better in that it allows people to have their concerns and opinions noted and addressed early in the process through the working group.
Lake said he appreciates the concern the mine has generated, adding with a project of this size, the assessment process needs to consider the impacts from environmental, health and economic aspects.
Ultimately, the final decision on the mine remains in the hands of both environment ministers.
Lake said he intends to stay at arm's length from the process, so when it is complete, he can be objective in assessing the work.
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.