Honourable Premier Christy Clark:
As a Kamloops City councillor actively engaged in the issues surrounding the possible approval of the gigantic KGHM Ajax mine right at our city’s boundaries, I formally request that you suspend the permitting process for this mine until two fundamental flaws, as found in 1.) and 2.) below, are rectified.
It is my belief that, taken together, these two flaws may well constitute an abuse of fair process contrary to Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I refer you to Section 7 of the Charter: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice. “
1.) It is completely unacceptable that the Ajax plan for a massive tailings pond dam to be located in the hills directly above the City of Kamloops can be considered to be a legitimate and legal part of the permitting process. This is a direct threat to the lives and security of the persons living below, for now and for all time, and a willful disregarding of evidence to the contrary. In considering whether to approve activities such as those associated with the proposed KGHM Ajax mine, British Columbia needs to ensure that principles of fundamental justice are respected and that, in particular, there is a fair process in the case where the proposed activities may affect the right of life, liberty or security of the person.
I remind you of the catastrophic failure of the Mount Polley tailings pond dam two years ago and point out that the proposed Ajax mine tailings pond is to be approximately five times larger than Mount Polley, even with proposed adjustments for thickened tailings and reduced water content. We need only imagine the dire consequences had there been a city of 90,000 residents just below Mount Polley dam.
I also remind you that the engineering panel commissioned by the province to study the Mount Polley failure unequivocally called for British Columbia to phase out storing water and tailings together behind dams, i.e., to eliminate tailings pond dams for new mines. “Only this can provide the kind of fail-safe redundancy that prevents releases no matter what,” they wrote. (Please see 9. “Where do we go from here?” p. 120, Mount Polley Review Panel.)
In light of this, for the provincial government to allow the consideration of placing a tailings pond dam above Kamloops – apparently because it is the most profitable mining method – is an arbitrary abdication of your foremost responsibility to protect the lives and security of persons in the City of Kamloops. It also takes us all into the theatre of the absurd following the Mount Polley collapse, for even though the Ajax tailings dam may be modified with such things as thickening and the addition of more rock beaches to try to obtain government approval, “a tailings pond dam is a tailings pond dam is a tailings pond dam” – there is just no getting around it.
Given the threat this poses to citizens’ right to life, liberty and security of the person, British Columbia’s obligation to ensure fair process and respect the fundamental principles of justice requires that you provide a detailed response explaining why you are not implementing the recommendations of the Mount Polley Review Panel, and how public health and safety of the residents of Kamloops will be addressed through credible alternative measures, with an opportunity for the public to be heard. This obviously requires a suspension of the KGHM Ajax permitting process until these matters can be satisfactorily resolved.
2.) It is completely unacceptable that the province has arbitrarily ignored the recent recommendation of Auditor General Carol Bellringer, and of the previous auditor general before her, that mine oversight in B.C. should be independent of the government ministry that issues permits and promotes mining investment, which is an obvious conflict of interest. I remind you that the Auditor General’s 106-page report, released in May, was highly critical of the Ministry of Energy and Mines and the Ministry of Environment, for failing in their compliance and enforcement mandates. “We concluded that the Ministry of Energy and Mines’ compliance and enforcement activities of the mining sector are inadequate to protect the province from significant environmental risks,” wrote Bellringer.
It is clear from this evidence-based, credible and authoritative investigation by the auditor general that independent monitoring and enforcement are critical to this mine on the doorstep of 90,000 residents – something that can and must be addressed before the permitting process can legitimately go forward. The ability of the mines and environment ministries to monitor and enforce safe mining practices is a proven failure that must be corrected, and for you to arbitrarily continue to ignore this reality is an abuse of fair process with the very large potential to harm Kamloops residents. Previous successful Charter cases have established that a law that restricts life, liberty or security of the person, when subjected to an evidence-based review of its operation, may be shown to be not in fact fulfilling the law’s objective, or even to be undermining the law’s objective by doing more harm than good.
I must tell you, honourable Premier, that the facts found in 1.) and 2.) above 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. I urge you to take immediate action to suspend the permitting process for KGHM Ajax until it has been aligned with the fundamental principles of justice and fair process, and I await your earliest response. Please be advised that I have begun queries to legal counsel about what legal remedies may be available to residents of Kamloops who believe their lives and their security of person are being jeopardized by the current flawed permitting process.
In a separate but related matter, please also be advised that I intend to introduce a motion sometime this fall asking Kamloops City council to establish five conditions necessary for it to be able to support the operation of Ajax mine. These are modeled after your own five conditions for the province to be able to give approval of the Northern Gateway pipeline proposal, and there has been considerable interest and support for this concept since I first spoke of it publicly; however, I have found strong feedback from Kamloops residents telling me that the issues in items 1.) and 2.) above must be addressed in the permitting process for them to be able to support these proposed conditions.
Those five conditions as originally drafted are:
“Following an extensive review and analysis of the massive KGHM/Ajax mine proposal at the edge of the Kamloops city boundaries, the City of Kamloops has arrived at five principles that must be addressed if it is to give acceptance to the proposed development of KGHM/Ajax Mine:
"1) Formal acceptance of the KGHM/Ajax mine development by Stk’emlupsemc te Secwepemc Nation (Tk’emlups and Skeetchestn Indian Bands), which has land claims on the area of the mine.
"2) Successful completion of the formal environmental review and permitting processes, with a clear commitment that there will be “zero harm” to the health of Kamloops and area residents and the environment, as has been promised by the mine officials.
"3) 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. This new agency shall have the authority to issue incentive-based large fines and to order a permanent halt or reduction of mining operations if it becomes clear mining practices are damaging to health and/or the environment, including the livability of residents in nearby neighbourhoods.
"4) An ongoing joint review panel be established with representatives from KGHM Ajax, the Ministry of Mines, the Ministry of Environment, relevant First Nations and the City of Kamloops.
"It will monitor data from five new city-wide live monitoring stations provided by the operator and assess reports of mining practices that may be damaging to health and/or the environment. It will forward them as appropriate to the newly formed enforcement agency and release them to the public at the same time.
"5) City of Kamloops shall receive a fair share of financial compensation.
"There shall also be a substantial reclamation bond in place and the establishment of a robust and functional property-compensation program and economic benefits from KGHM/Ajax, including provincial and federal governments, that reflects the risk borne by City of Kamloops residents.”
DENIS J WALSH, Councillor
August 17, 2016 06:06pm
Isn't contrary the wrong word in this statement.
Patrick Leibel says:
August 17, 2016 05:43am
Having lived here since 1968, I remember the putrid stink from the pulp mill which polluted our air (before the chimney on the mountain was constructed which helped immensely), and the addition of the world class water treatment plant, which ridded the city of its muddy tap water streaming from our faucets.
The city blossomed from a dirty industrial town to a sports paradise, where tourism draws thousands every year to the "Tournament Capital of Canada", a fisherman's paradise and the gateway to Sun Peaks. To risk throwing all of this progress away for some fast bucks and put in its place a permanent blight and potential threat to our safety, and a likely degradation of our air quality is to me both shortsighted and foolhardy.
Those who would profit from the mine care not for the lost tourism jobs and the doctors who would leave this town, rather than breathe daily the particulates which all who have lived here a long time know will blow over the town, settling on our property, in our pools and in our lungs.
It's disgusting that the Clark government (the one which was caught using secret private emails to do government business, and is bypassing an independent review on the business case for the site C Dam for the sake of "political expediency", should also ignore the recommendations of two Auditor Generals for independent oversight of mining regulations. These regulations are too often ignored to save dollars or potentially to move dollars into the "right" pockets, a possibility every time a conflict of interest exists.
It is Clark's job to remove conflicts of interest wherever they may occur in Government, not to embrace them!
The interests of big business have for too long determined the path of our society, and I believe it's time to put their interests secondary to the health and well-being of our prosperous community, and I applaud Mr. Walsh's letter and any councilor who has the temerity to speak up publicly for this most rational concept!
Barbara Hembling says:
August 16, 2016 12:30pm
ajax oobigtooclose says:
August 15, 2016 10:03pm
He did not say he represents everyone.
He sure represents me, my family, and my friends.
If money is needed for a lawsuit, ask and it will be found.
This proposed mine is a threat to the entire city.
If the existing laws and expert recommendations are taken seriously, the proposal should be suspended.
Thank you Mr. Walsh for articulating those necessary points to our Premier.
August 15, 2016 05:07pm
August 15, 2016 12:14pm
I get it... times are hard and people want jobs here in Kamloops so they don't have to travel to other (more industry-friendly) places for work. It seems like a great promise to have a huge company open here and give everybody great jobs with zero impact to the city... but just like every promise that sounds great, its probably not exactly true. Those mine jobs probably won't all go to people from Kamloops. There probably won't be the 'zero impact' they keep promising. If you think for a second that KGHM will prioritize the safety of Kamloops over it's profit margin just because it's the right thing to do, then you're ignoring history.
Debbie Woodd says:
August 14, 2016 04:59pm
Dale Shoemaker says:
August 13, 2016 08:33pm
It seems to me its those that have good paying jobs in other fields that are against and want everything to stay as it is. This will not be the end of the world, it will be monitored and we won't even notice the mine is there
Gary Hockett says:
August 13, 2016 07:34pm
Jeff Shawaga says:
August 13, 2016 05:29pm
August 17, 2016 06:28pm
James Graff says:
August 14, 2016 06:15pm
Graham Strachan says:
August 13, 2016 04:58pm
August 13, 2016 03:55pm
Terry Gall says:
August 13, 2016 07:30pm
As Usual says:
August 13, 2016 06:39pm
August 13, 2016 11:22am
Susan Eredics says:
August 13, 2016 09:17am
John Goldsmith says:
August 13, 2016 08:10am
Regarding Milobar, his leadership is suspect, his courage lacking.
The Liberals and KGHM/Ajax are trying to kick the can beyond May 2017 in order to get the application behind the next Provincial election.
Mr Walsh, there is all sorts of money available in Kamloops to fund legal costs to pursue an action against KGHM/Ajax and if necessary the Province, just ask for financial support and it will come.
August 13, 2016 01:03am
August 13, 2016 06:52pm
August 13, 2016 06:47pm
A city Councillor has a duty to all his/her voters and has no business coming out either for or against a project of this magnitude prior to the governing bodies in charge making the final determination.
It's a pathetic move by Councillor Walsh but thankfully this government seems to have seen through the propaganda group saying NO to past requests and even chastising them for not doing their research.