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May backs call for more public input on mine

By Mike Youds
July 29, 2016 10:06 A.M.
KAPA protesters at a 2014 public session on the Ajax Mine.

Describing the environmental assessment process as abominable across the country, Green Party Leader says the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office should allow an additional public comment period for the Ajax Mine.

May takes part in a panel discussion on the project tonight, July 29, organized by Kamloops Area Preservation Association, at St. Andrew’s on the Square at 7:30 p.m. 

KAPA, along with other groups that make up the community advisory group on the proposed open pit copper/gold mine, requested an additional comment period in the Ajax review process in order to consider how the proponent responds to more than 2,000 comments on its application. The request has been denied.

The 180-day environmental assessment review schedule is expected to resume in October with roughly two months remaining after that.

“My appearance was planned in Kamloops before they hit the pause button at the request of the proponent, but I think it’s timely to have a conversation when there is time to talk about it,” she said.

She described the panel discussion as a town hall gathering, open to all and intended to "throw light not heat."

May was unequivocal about the need for more public input, much less so about the value of a federal full panel review that the City and community groups have repeatedly requested.

“Absolutely,” May said. “We need to expand the review process. I’m loathe to say it should get a much fuller federal review because the federal process is so flawed.”

While the Trudeau government has pledged to fix it, the process has been delayed to allow more time to consider changes, meaning there will be at least another year with weak legislation, she said. She said the current legislation is not just useless, it’s dangerous.

As for the Ajax project, May said she was first briefed on the project a couple of years ago and has been watching issues unfold since then. She plans to tour the site prior to the panel discussion.

She said she realizes the community is divided on the issue of whether the mine should proceed but feels there is common ground in identifying alternatives for creating jobs.

In 35 years of looking at various mine project, she’s not seen another so close to an urban population. The legislative framework doesn’t contemplate the complexity of issues.

“I was astonished when it came up for the first time,” she said, noting that mine applications usually deal with impacts on natural habitat and wildlife populations. “This is the first time I’ve seen a mine where questions come up about population issues and a municipality.”

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