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Suspend Ajax permit process, Walsh says

July 29, 2016 1:06 P.M.

Pointing to what he feels are two key flaws in the permitting process for the proposed Ajax Mine, Coun. Denis Walsh argues that it should be suspended.

Plans for a tailings pond dam must be dropped by proponent KGHM, Walsh said Friday ahead of a panel discussion on the proposal taking organized by Kamloops Area Preservation Association. 

Walsh is also urging the province to follow recent recommendations from Auditor General Carol Bellringer. Bellringer recommended in May that mine oversight in B.C. should be independent of the government ministry that issues permits and promotes mining investment, due to an obvious conflict of interest.

Walsh recently proposed that City council should consider adopting five conditions that might make Ajax acceptable to Kamloops should the mine be approved. Those conditions — intended to mirror conditions the Clark government has set before it will approve the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, he said, and are necessary to protect city interests if mining were to be allowed.

“The feedback I have received has encouraged me to go forward with bringing this proposal to council, but it has also made me realize that fundamental flaws with the process must be corrected or it will be difficult, if not impossible, to gather public support for putting these proposed conditions into place,” Walsh said. 

Walsh feels the city and province have a duty to protect the interests of its citizens in the face of high risks and possible significant harm to the community.

He said he has found strong resistance to having a tailings pond dam up to five times larger than that of the failed Mount Polley mine on the hill above Kamloops. This specifically goes against the recommendations of the expert engineering panel formed by the province in the wake of the Mount Polley disaster, he maintained. That panel recommended an end to storing water and tailings together behind dams. 

“Only this can provide the kind of fail-safe redundancy that prevents releases no matter what,” the panel concluded.

Walsh also noted that the same report recommended dry-stack tailings storage because there is no dam to fail. If dry-stacked tailings shift, such as in the result of an earthquake, they will not travel as far as water saturated tailings.

   One of Walsh’s conditions in his proposed five-point plan calls for world-leading compliance and enforcement practices for strict enforcement of "zero-harm" mining practices, to be enforced by a newly formed agency independent of, but with jurisdiction over, the Ministry of Mines and the Ministry of Environment.  

He said that in light of the province’s failure to put this into place with its recent update of mining regulations, he now sees independent monitoring and enforcement as "critical to this mine on the doorstep of 90,000 residents, something that can and must be addressed before the permitting process can even go forward.”

James Graff says:
July 29, 2016 05:06pm

The Kamloops Precipice.

- I am personally always aghast in what I am found reading herein -including in this article- about this mine and mining above the City.

-Hypothetically (if we are allowed to ask this): 'What would the owners of the mine say, if in fact, they did inconsequentially (in accordance to a submission of scientific evidence), kill off the City of Kamloops, due to contamination of underground waterways above Kamloops and therein into the South Thompson River and its waterway into the lower mainland, through the Fraser River?

-I think they would say nothing and simply go to court to have their voice in the matter of calamity put to opinion therein; the geographical residences would be left to a decision that would no longer have an affect for the City and residents, as the City, geologically, would be dead anyways -polluted from below its foundations (thus, no longer a Tournament Capital region either).


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