All eyes are on Ajax at info sessions
A steady stream of residents filed through the doors of the Kamloops Convention Centre on Monday, Feb. 6, to get another good look at the proposed Ajax copper and gold mine south of Aberdeen.
It was the first day of a two-day public information session held by proponent KGHM Ajax Mining Inc., along with the federal and provincial environmental assessment offices, as part of the public-comment period for the review process.
Jan Stewart lives in Aberdeen and was wandering around the room to get more information on the project.
She said she realizes the mine will have a positive economic impact, but wonders at what cost to the environment and the lifestyle of residents in the neighbourhood.
“A lot of questions and issues need to be worked out,” she said.
Though Stewart was satisfied with the set-up of the public-information sessions, she questioned whether the project’s approval was a done deal and the two-day open house was just a way to appease the process.
“Do we really have any say?” she asked.
Other residents who spoke to KTW echoed Stewart’s sentiment while raising concerns about other environmental impacts, such as air quality.
However, Brocklehurst resident Norm Thompson has a more favourable view of the project.
He said much of his concerns about water quality and processing have been adequately addressed by the company.
“I already know more than I did when I walked in,” he said, while eyeing one of more than a dozen project information boards on display throughout the room.
Thompson said there is a vocal minority opposed to the mine, adding many others in the community support the Ajax project.
He argued residents need to gather all the fact about the project and then make an informed decision.
In all, about 25 experts and government officials are expected to be on hand to answer questions and hear concerns throughout the two-day sessions, which conclude on Tuesday, Feb. 7, between noon and 8 p.m.
The public-comment period is for the draft application information requirements (AIR), or the table of contents that will eventually guide the larger application document.
The AIR describes the proposed studies, methods and information the proponent must include in the final application.
The public-comment period ends on March 12.
Abacus CEO and president Jim Excell said the information sessions are crucial as the company puts together the table of contents, or AIR.
He said the session will help ensure the document is complete and addresses the concerns expressed by the public.
When questioned whether the approval of the mine was a done deal, as suggested by some residents, Excell said that is not the case at all.
He said approval won’t come until the company answers the questions and the community feels comfortable with the project.
“That’s our hope, people will one day say, ‘That’s a good company to have as our neighbour in front of our community,’” he said.
Meanwhile, the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office held the first meeting of a community advisory group on the Ajax project last week.
Chris Hamilton, the project assessment director for the EAO, said about 25 people from 10 groups met to form the advisory group.
The members included the Kamloops and Area Preservation Association and the Grasslands Conservation Council of Canada.
Hamilton said the group is essentially an additional way for the province to engage in the environmental process with the community.
During the first meeting, the advisory group established a terms of reference and is expected to meet a couple more time in the coming weeks.