Kamloops Councillor asks Premier to stop Ajax process

By Adam Donnelly
August 19, 2016 - 4:44pm Updated: August 19, 2016 - 5:27pm

KAMLOOPS — It’s been over 7 years since Abacus Mining published their Preliminary Assessment Technical Report on the proposed Ajax Coper and Gold Mine located just outside the city of Kamloops, and in that time the issue has been as divisive as any the city has faced. Just last week Kamloops Councillor Denis Walsh sent a letter to Premier Christy Clark, asking her to suspend the permitting process for the mine, citing what calls the ‘completely unacceptable plan for a massive tailings pond’ located just above the city. Some on council have been critical of Walsh’s letter, and the fact he sent it of his own volition. We spoke with Walsh, as well as fellow councillor Arjun Singh, to find out more about the letter, and the backlash surrounding it.

WATCH: Full report by Adam Donnelly

It’s the worst possible scenario for residents of Aberdeen, if the controversial Ajax Mine goes in: a tailings pond breach, like the one which happened just over two years ago at Mount Polley, and spilled the equivalent of 3,200 Olympic Sized swimming pools worth of tailings material into Quesnel Lake.

“You can just imagine the disaster if there were 90,000 people living below the Mount Polley dam when it broke,” Walsh suggested.  “The biggest concern is the risk… of a toxic tailings pond above the city of 90,000 people.”

This concern is what prompted Kamloops City Councillor Denis Walsh to pen a letter to Christy Clark, asking the Premier to suspend the permitting process for the proposed mine, until what he calls the “two fundamental flaws in the process” can be rectified. One of which being the lack of proper oversight from the Province throughout the mining industry.

“There’s a lack of trust and faith in the BC government’s regulatory body… Two Auditor General’s have both stated that it’s inadequate, in [the government’s] compliance enforcement. You can change all the rules you want in the dining industry, but if you’re not going to enforce them, we’re no better off.”

Walsh isn’t the only councillor to voice his personal opinion from his seat at the council table. Councillor Donovan Cavers was scolded by Kamloops Chamber of Commerce for speaking out at the meetings.

“The unfortunate thing, the distraction is whether or not a councillor has the right to speak up in public,” Walsh explained. “…around 10,000 people voted for me, so to me, I’m representing constituents of Kamloops with this particular point of view.”

Fellow councillor Arjun Sing says while he understands Walsh’s actions, he believes the letter won’t have the same impact coming from only one councillor.

“I think the impact won’t be as great if he’d actually gone through council  and got [the letter] endorsed through council,” Singh told CFJC Today. “I think his idea is to keep the Ajax issue in the public eye.”

When it comes to the subject of the proposed mine, Singh says he’s growing weary of the process.

“The time it’s taken, in my view, has been far too long,” Singh said. “I’m willing to let Ajax have one more opportunity to answer the questions that were posed about the initial application, but for me that will probably be it. We have to make a decision on this issue.”

As for Walsh, he figures it’s time for Council to stand up and take a side.

“We need to be able to establish whether this mine is supported by council, or not, and where we go from there.”

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