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Ajax junior partner releases another statement on proposed mine near Kamloops

Abacus Mining & Exploration Corporation of Vancouver says it and senior partner KGHM want to see the project move forward

It is Mineral Exploration Week in B.C. and with it comes another release from the junior partner of the proposed Ajax copper and gold mine south of Kamloops, stating the mine idea is not dead.

Abacus Mining & Exploration Corporation of Vancouver has a 20 per cent stake in the property, with Poland-based KGHM Polska Miedź S.A. controlling 80 per cent.

On Feb. 3, Abacus president and CEO Paul, Anderson issued an update via a statement on the company’s website.

Anderson said Abacus meets regularly with KGHM, noting the senior partner in Ajax plans to devote more attention to the project, including continued engagement with First Nations.

“I am pleased that the Ajax project remains a priority for our partner and that they continue to engage about the project with First Nations” Anderson said in the statement.

“With copper and gold prices near all-time highs, we would be happy to see this project advance more quickly, to the benefit of all stakeholders.”

Part of the Ajax site was mined in the late 1980s by Teck as part of their Afton operation. Abacus acquired the Ajax project from Teck , with KGHM buying into it in 2010.

Anderson said Ajax last underwent a feasibility study in 2016, when the project was designed to mine 65,000 tonnes per day over an 18-year mine life. Anderson said the 2016 feasibility study used metal prices of US$3.21 per pound for copper, US$1,200 per ounce for gold and US$17 per ounce for silver.

On Feb. 3, those metals closed at the following prices: gold ($1,806 per ounce), copper ($4.48 per pound) and silver ($22.43 per ounce).

The Ajax mine application wad rejected by the provincial government in 2017 and the federal government in 2018. Approval from both levels of government is needed for the mine proposal to proceed.

At the time, provincial Environment Minister George Heyman and Mines Minister Michelle Mungall said the open-pit mine would have significant adverse effects not outweighed by potential benefits. These included impacts to Indigenous heritage and traditional land uses, and to human health, air quality and grasslands eco-systems.

Upon the initial rejection, KGHM and Abacus had the option of appealing the decision at the Supreme Court level, but the companies did not do that.

As of late 2020, KGHM and Abacus were in the process or working on a new application and opened an office on Victoria Street in downtown Kamloops after hiring Michael Wypych as project manager.

Neither Wypych nor Anderson nor KGHM’s Toronto office have returned calls to KTW since September 2021.

In May 2021, Reuters in Europe reported that KGHM plans to sell its smaller mines outside Poland, including the Carlota copper mine in the United States.

“We decided that the smaller mines do not fit in our portfolio. It seems that now is an ideal time to sell,” Pawel Gruza, KGHM’’s vice-president in charge of foreign assets, said in a news conference, as reported by Reuters.

The company plans to reinvest the proceeds in its domestic operations in Poland.

KGHM, among the world’s largest copper and silver producers, has mining operations in Europe, North America and South America. With over 38 million tonnes of copper ore resources worldwide, is one of the world’s biggest copper and silver producers. The Polish government owns 32 per cent of KGHM.

Anderson’s statement this week follows a similar statement he released on Sept. 1, 2020, when he said Wypych’s duties would initially be focused on First Nations, community and governmental engagement in order to advance the project toward resubmitting the application to government.

Ajax split many Kamloops residents, some whom passionately opposed and others adamantly in support of the project.

Local First Nations were and remain opposed to the proposed mine, with the Stk’emlupsemc Te Secwépemc Nation, which represents the Tk’emlups and Skeetchestn First Nations, citing the project’s impacts on Jacko Lake, which it considers an important cultural heritage site.

In 2017, Kamloops council voted to oppose Ajax. Despite the stance, the city had reached an agreement in principle with KHGM with respect to a community benefits agreement, in which Kamloops was to receive $3.8 million annually from the company if Ajax was approved.

The money — which would have amounted to $87 million over the projected 23-year life of the mine — was meant to be used for items including an independent monitoring program, a local health-care program, affordable housing offset, community and social services funding, to offset taxes for heavy industry and cover road maintenance.