Kamloops council ups Ajax consultant budget, expresses frustration

By James Peters
October 4, 2016 - 3:10pm Updated: October 4, 2016 - 5:26pm

KAMLOOPS — Kamloops council is giving its consultant some more money to review the KGHM-Ajax copper-gold mine proposal, but some around the council table are expressing frustration at how long the environmental assessment process is taking.

Council voted unanimously this afternoon to up the budget for SLR Consulting by $200,000.

Public Works and Utilities Director Jen Fretz says the job is half done.

"I think it's important that we get all of the questions that we have answered through the use of SLR before we bring forward any information to council. I wouldn't feel comfortable bringing any sort of information to council if SLR were not able to continue the work that they're doing currently."

"Now that we're this far in with SLR, I think there is a comfort level that they're bringing that other, almost third governmental perspective to the table and eye," said Mayor Peter Milobar. "We should continue that work on."

The city will ask KGHM-Ajax to foot the bill for the increased budget, as it did for the initial $300,000 price tag.

"They've chosen to put through an application for a mine that sits right on the edge of this city," said Councillor Tina Lange. "Part of that is, it's going to be more expensive to do their assessment, keep everybody happy and answer all the questions that have resulted from that application."

But Councillor Donovan Cavers says the half-million dollar bill for review leads him to conclude there are myriad issues with the company's application. 

"What it says to me is that this mine application and proposal are absolutely riddled with issues, problems, insufficiencies, omissions and a lot of biased interpretations of data. Personally, I'm done. I think this company, we need to show them to the door, and we should take an official position to that end."

Council followed up the monetary decision by voting to send a letter to KGHM-Ajax and various levels of government, expressing frustration at the length of time the project's environmental assessment is taking.

The EA process has been paused for much of the year to allow Ajax to answer additional questions that have been posed.

"This is costing Kamloops taxpayers for a project that we have supposedly no say in, and these things shouldn't be affecting us at all. It shouldn't be a financial burden to the city, and we should not be any worse off than before the project application started," said Councillor Denis Walsh.

But Milobar urged patience.

"If we let it unfold, we will end up with a much stronger understanding of what is being proposed, and what is even doable on that property. The other reality is, even if KGHM walked away tomorrow - the rocks aren't going with them. There is still an ore deposit sitting there, that at some point in the future very well we could be in this exact same situation again," said Milobar.

The vote to pen a letter passed by a 5-4 count.

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