KAMLOOPS — Reaction has been swift to the provincial government's decision not to issue an environmental assessment certificate for the KGHM Ajax mine project.
Environmental and Climate Change Strategy Minister George Heyman and Energy, Mines and Petroleum Minister Michelle Mungall cited environmental effects and effects to Indigenous heritage as some of the major reasons.
"We're very disappointed, of course," said Project Manager for KGHM Ajax Chris Wild. "We've put so much work into getting to this point. It's been six years of hard work and lots of people involved."
He also said the decision "more or less discounted potential mitigation measures."
Another person disappointed was former mayoral candidate Stu Holland, who based his 2017 byelection campaign on getting the mine approved in September.
"I kind of figured it was coming because the NDP kind of ran with Site C and now the Green Party is really fighting with them on that," he told CFJC Today. "Collectively, I think our city council and our mayor as leader of the pack, need to start promoting Kamloops because right now, to lose those kinds of jobs, they would have helped the economy. I'm really disappointed."
Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian said the decision has been six years in the making noting "for Kamloops now, at least we can put this behind us. It's a very divisive issue in the community."
"We can now move forward with the Official Community Plan in terms of the development we're looking at in the southwest sector. The housing development up there is intended to be about 43 per cent of the total growth Kamloops as best as we can."
Much of the reaction to reject the mine was positive. Dr. Jill Calder, lead physician for Kamloops Physicians for a Healthy Environment, said she never believed Ajax's claim that mitigation of 90 per cent of the mine's dust would be containable. It was a claim she found hard to believe considering she said she couldn't find a mine in the world that operated with such parameters.
"I'm not surprised, I'm thankful. I had no requests from Santa this year. This was my only wish and I'm going to have a wonderful Christmas and New Year's resting easy with this being the decision."
Kamloops City Councillor Donovan Cavers, long an opponent of Ajax, was thrilled as well.
"Obviously, I'm pretty pleased. It's been nerve-racking over the last few days waiting for the decision to come in but yeah, I'm definitely pleased," he said. "A lot of people have been pouring their blood, sweat and tears to ensure our community is protected and will be happy with this decision. Especially after the Site C approval, people were nervous that Ajax could just as easily be approved but all of the evidence was against Ajax. It was not the place to put an open pit mine of that scale."
Cavers isn't concerned about the jobs that will be lost either.
"I think KGHM had created this illusion there was this great need for the mine but that's not really the case. We just need to continue to do what we're doing. It's something many communities are jealous of."
Area First Nations were "exuberant" with the decision.
"We Secwepemc have never ceded or surrendered our rights or title," aid TK'emplups te Secwepemc Chief Fred Seymour in a release. "Our ancestors stood firm as we, for the benefit of our future generations and guest in our territory. The British Columbian government, in choosing to refuse KGHM Ajax's environmental assessment, are enacting their commitment to uphold the First Nations Declaration on Indigenous Rights and to implement the 94 calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission."
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