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Councillor's appeal to Premier questioned

Request to suspend Ajax process draws mixed reaction
By Mike Youds
August 16, 2016 9:30 A.M.

Ajax isn’t on the agenda, but it’s almost certain to be on the minds of those around the table at City council’s first meeting in three weeks, Tuesday, Aug. 16.

A letter sent late last week to Premier Christy Clark, Coun. Denis Walsh has been garnering attention, a mix of support and criticism, though not from Victoria. Walsh asks Clark to suspend the Ajax Mine permitting process — which has been paused halfway through the review — on account of the proposed tailings storage facility, the risk it might pose to the city below in light of the Mt. Polley disaster and the recent auditor general’s report on lax mining regulation.

“I must tell you, honourable Premier, that the facts … lead me to believe that your government’s policies on the Ajax mine approval process are such that they shock the conscience of the public and are fundamentally opposed to the notions of fair process and justice held by Canadians,” Walsh wrote.

After a few days of fielding media questions about Walsh’s appeal to the Premier, Mayor Peter Milobar wondered what all the fuss was about.

“Frankly, is anyone surprised that Coun. Walsh is opposed to the mine? He’s repeating everything he’s said for the last 61/2 years,” Milobar said.

Walsh, along with councillors Tina Lange, Donovan Cavers and Dieter Dudy, has consistently opposed the mine, while others on council have reserved judgment while awaiting results of the proponent’s environmental permit application.

Milobar clearly wasn’t happy that Walsh sent the letter without council discussion.

“There is an appropriate venue if Coun. Walsh wants to act on these things,” he said.

It can get problematic when a councillor starts writing letters under the title of councillor because it creates confusion as to whether it’s the position of council or not, he said.

Councillors Pat Wallace and Ken Christian have been critical of Walsh’s missive to the Premier.

Coun. Arjun Singh was more diplomatic about the issue, noting that Walsh wrote the letter on his own letterhead and discussed his intent with him beforehand.

“I think that’s one that's within the allowable actions a councillor can take,” Singh said.

He has stayed neutral on the proposed open pit copper/gold project on the edge of town. He wonders, though, about yet another stall in the process when the snail’s pace of its planning and permitting has become an issue in itself, sowing deep divisions in the community.

“Let’s just keep the community on tenterhooks," Singh said. "My God, it’s been 61/2 years.

If we’re asking for the process to be suspended, that allows more time for the process to drag on, and I’ve got to think, is there any valid reason for doing so?”

On the other hand, the direct appeal can’t hurt, he feels, even if the Premier is unlikely to respond.

“I would probably say no, but I think there is an opportunity for the province to understand the level of concern with the process.”

Singh also noted that the tailings storage facility proposed by KGHM-Ajax was one of the few components of its application that didn't cause concern for SLR Consulting, the City's consultant examining the project.

After sending the letter, Walsh left town for a foray to dismantle an alpine camp, a prior commitment, and hasn't been able to defend his action. He won't be returning until Wednesday, Aug. 17, after council's regular meeting.

"I have sufficiently researched the legal aspects presented and have had sufficient feedback from qualified legal advocates to feel confident that all points in my letter are credible and should be taken seriously by the government of British Columbia," he wrote in an email to NewsKamloops.com.

Milobar meets with KGHM at month’s end for further discussions on the benefit agreement and said they may have a draft completed by September.

“I’m focused on trying to work with Coun. Dudy and staff and KGHM, working on the community benefits agreement,” he said, noting there was unanimity on council to pursue that in relation to the mine proposal.”

The letter has received a balance of supportive and critical comments after it was posted on the weekend.

 

 

yuri says:
August 17, 2016 02:23pm

Really though, does Kamloops city council really have a say here?
They cant stop this. There will be back and forth on this for years but at some point an operation will proceed there but will look much different than original proposal I suspect. Metals prices aren't great now but if they improve economics will rule the day here with a healthy dose off compromise. Not the City of Kamloops.

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Pierre Filisetti says:
August 16, 2016 12:57pm

"Considerable criticism" from the likes of Wallace & Christian? Wallace & Christian have big shoes to fill and should look no further than their dismal record.
The general tone of this article is a bit misleading. Already mentioned by others, there is much support in the community for Walsh's letter/position.

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Liz says:
August 16, 2016 10:52am

Come on Mike, in your lead in you say "considerable criticism" to Walsh's letter but remain silent on the considerable support he has and his courage to continue to support the citizens of Kamloops who want Ajax blocked forever, and it goes way beyond the risks of tailings and you know it.
Maybe it's time that NewsKamloops develop it's informed position on KGHM/Ajax, as you say it is only 6 1/2 years since the nonsense began, and publish your findings and position eg. an unqualified for or against.
By the way, unemployment in Kamloops 6 years ago was over 12 percent, in July 2016 it was 4 1/2 percent, looks like we are doing o.k. without Ajax . Tournament Capital Of Canada continues to be a major building block to sustain the local economy ( maybe you have noticed the number of new hotel rooms that have been added locally in the passed two years) wonder if they have been built on the bases that AJAX will go into construction soon.

Mike, look forward to reading NewsKamloops' definitive position on Ajax soonest, yes it will take courage to do this but you have had a social license to standstill for 6 1/2 years. I think your time and City council time ihas run out.

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Ken McClelland says:
August 16, 2016 05:27pm

NewsKamloops' position against Ajax has been pretty obvious for quite some time now.

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Mel Rothenburger says:
August 16, 2016 10:15pm

'NewsKamloops' doesn't have a position against Ajax. I have a position against Ajax; our publisher Claude Richmond favours Ajax. A couple of our columnists oppose Ajax. Jim Harrison, whose editorials we publish daily, writes in favour.


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