Warning on Ajax from Salt Lake City
An anti-pollution advocate living near one of the world’s largest open-pit copper mines told Kamloops council this week she is “shocked” KGHM Ajax would want to build a similar mine so close to Kamloops’ city limits.
“The project should have been shelved there,” said Cherise Udell, president of Utah Moms for Clean Air. “The risks associated with mining are just way too high to impose on a community of people.”
Backed by about 60 people singing and carrying signs with anti-Ajax slogans, Udell was at city hall on Tuesday, March 12 to speak about her fight against air pollution in Salt Lake City.
The area has some of the worst air pollution in the United States, she said, and went through a month of “red-air days” in January of this year.
“There were times when we actually had the worst air in the world, up there with Beijing, China,” Udell said, adding schools now keep children inside during recess on bad-air days and some in the city will stay home from work when the pollution is at its worst.
“Our community’s feeling somewhat terrorized. Moms are having to choose — do I let my kids go outside and play in this dirty air and get the exercise they need for growing? Or do we keep them safe indoors?”
At the levels Salt Lake City experiences, the effects of air pollution are similar to smoking half a pack of cigarettes each day, Udell said.
She said the mine, owned by the Rio Tinto group, is one of the major contributors to the problem.
Unlike Ajax, the Rio Tinto mine has coal-fired power plants on site, as well as a smelter, and is large enough to be visible from space.
Udell said there is no guarantee KGHM won’t wish to expand in the future.
“What they’re proposing right now is probably just a small fraction of what they’re expecting to do in your community,” she said.
Udell said her advocacy group has been able to work with the Rio Tinto mine, encouraging it to shut down some of its coal power plants and enact an anti-idling policy.
However, its negative impacts on the community still outweigh its economic benefits, she said., noting Utah’s reputation for bad air is becoming a problem.
“People have turned down great job offers because they’ve heard about how dangerous the air quality is,” she said.
Udell was invited to the city by Kamloops Moms for Clean Air, which hosted two information session’s about her group’s fight against air pollution.
“I just want to help the moms I’ve connected with here to prevent the kind of pain and suffering we’ve experienced,” Udell told council.
“I have no other agenda.”