An environmental review of the proposed Ajax mine, which has been on hold for nearly a year, is once again on the clock -- but the process to restart the review will take longer than expected.
According to documents posted on the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office (BCEAO) website, the copper and gold mine's review restarted on Wednesday, on Day 108 of what was initially a 180-day process.
That timeline has been extended by an additional 110 days, which the EAO said will "align with the federal review timeline" and allow for another 30-day comment period, during which members of the public can weigh in on the BCEAO's and Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency's assessment of the project and draft conditions for its acceptance.
First Nations groups will also be consulted on the draft plan.
In a letter to KGHM Ajax, the company behind the mining proposal, Kevin Jardine, associate deputy minister for provincial environmental assessments, said the two groups have been working closely while the Ajax application was suspended.
"Going forward, the agency and the EAO have agreed to seek a greater level of co-ordination, which will include striving to align our respective timelines and to prepare a joint assessment report to inform separate federal and provincial decisions," he said.
Jardine said the approach will provide greater certainty in the process and ensure ministers at both levels are considering the same information on the mine.
The additional days will move the end of the review process to late September. Once it wraps up, B.C.'s ministers of environment and energy and mines will have 45 days to decide whether to approve the project.
The project needs the consent of both Victoria and Ottawa to proceed.
In April 2016, the BCEAO paused the application for an environmental permit to allow proponent KGHM more time to respond to public, city and First Nations comments. Responses to those comments and questions are now online at projects.eao.gov.bc.ca.
Jardine said he is satisfied the company has adequately responded to those queries.
In a statement, KGHM said it is excited to see the review resume.
"This will allow the public a chance to see firsthand the results of the work we have been doing for the last several months," said project manager Chris Wild. "Our team has worked very hard to address all the comments and questions posed by the public, government reviewers, First Nations and members of the technical working group."
City of Kamloops public works director Jen Fretz said it's not yet clear what the extended timeline will mean for the city, which had expected it would have a tight window to draft a response to the project.
The city is conducting its own review of Ajax's application, but its consultant, SLR Consulting, had been waiting on responses to a variety of questions from KGHM before it could submit a final report.
Fretz said she plans to bring a report to council on April 25 that will suggest dates for special council meetings to debate SLR's findings and the city's response.