KGHM contemplates options; SSN elated about Ajax rejection

By Chad Klassen
December 15, 2017 - 1:47pm Updated: December 15, 2017 - 5:33pm

KAMLOOPS — KGHM-Ajax officials are taking stock after the province's announcement this week that the mine will not receive an environmental certificate.

The project manager for the Ajax project, Chris Wild, says his team felt it did everything in its power to mitigate any dangers or environmental risks, particularly in regards to proximity to the city.

"Certainly when we moved the general arrangement or the location of many of the facilities away from the town, that was key in addressing those concerns," notes Wild. "Some of the infrastructure pieces were too close to the Aberdeen community."

KGHM changed its plans in 2014, switching to a tailings pond and moving the tailings infrastructure further south. Part of the plan was 90 per cent dust mitigation, which the province didn't believe was possible, and neither did many groups opposed to the mine project.

"The 90 per cent or more mitigation of dust was the lynchpin of the whole application," says Dr. Jill Calder from the group Kamloops Physicians For A Healthy Environment. "All the other estimates for water, air and soil were based on this dust mitigation, which we looked and found no mine in the world functioning at that consistently."

Wild says the 90 per cent dust mitigation is an industry standard and felt it could be achieved.

"We thought the mitigation that we put forward was going to be effective," he notes. "Of course there was more work to fully develop that plan, but certainly the elements to achieve that 90 per cent mitigation were there."

Chief Ron Ignace from the Skeetchestn Indian Band is elated at the province's decision, as is the rest of the Shuswap Nation that wanted to protect areas like Jacko Lake, or Pipsell, a piece of land sacred to their culture. 

"It's awesome," says Ignace. "It's more and more difficult for us. There's so much land being taken up, fenced into private property, no trespassing. It's important for us to maintain areas where we can have quiet enjoyment of our land."

Ignace says the independent panel review that SSN conducted, which he says influenced the NDP's decision, is a precedent-setter.

"Others are now looking at the independent panel review we established, which is a historic first in terms of Indigenous people standing up on their laws and taking control of decisions over the land," he said.

Ignace says SSN will still be active on the Ajax file until it's completely dead. 

As for KGHM, Wild says a decision on where the company goes from here will be made in January. 

"We've already addressed everything I think we could address. We'll look at some of the concerns that are raised in the decision document," noted Wild. "Are there enough significant changes we can make to re-enter the process?"

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