Kamloops Deputy Mayor Denis Walsh said he was “surprised” and “disappointed” to hear the controversial Ajax mine project may not be dead.
“I thought it may come back, but I was hoping it wouldn’t,” Walsh said. “I thought it would at least be five years down the road. I’m surprised it’s come back.”
The copper and gold mine project is co-owned by Poland-based KGHM International and Vancouver-based Abacus Mining and Exploration Corporation. KGHM owns 80 per cent of interest in the project and Abacus owns 20 per cent.
In a newsletter to investors this week, Abacus president and CEO Paul Anderson said Abacus and KGHM are preparing to “potentially” resubmit an environmental application.
Walsh said he had not heard a peep about the project at city hall until he read about it this week in the newspaper.
“There’s no heads-up on it, which is a bit surprising,” he said. “They said it had adverse effects on human health and the grasslands, the provincial government vetted anyway. So I don’t know how they hope to mitigate those problems, but I guess it’s a huge investment for them, so they’re willing to spend the money.”
He speculated investors could possibly be anticipating a change in government as the Oct. 21 federal election nears. To become an active mine, Ajax needs the approval of both the provincial and federal governments.
In December 2017, the provincial government rejected the project’s application.
“I’m definitely against it,” Walsh said. “My viewpoint hasn’t changed at all. It’s not good for Kamloops.”
Skeetchestn Indian Band Chief Ron Ignace reiterated opposition to the project by the Stk’emlupsemc te Secwépemc Nation, which consists of the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc and Skeetchestn First Nations.
He was surprised to hear the project may be revived.
“I guess he [Abacus CEO and president Paul Anderson] hasn’t read or looked at the decision by our independent project panel review, which consisted of the 13 heads of families from both my community and the community in Tk’emlups and supported by 150,000 people across the country,” Ignace said.
“When our family members, after sound and long deliberations, looking at all the facts, concluded that it’s the wrong mine and the wrong place.”
Ignace called the Ajax mine area, known to the First Nations as Pipsell, a “cultural keystone,” significant due to its plants, animals, few remaining grasslands and storied and sacred cultural relevance.
“I think that these mining companies ought to understand that, in a time of reconciliation, restitution, they recognize and respect our rights,” he said.
Asked what he would do if, in fact, the project does return to the application phase, Ignace said: “It’s clear. No means no. What part of no don’t you understand?”