Mine opposition dominates forum

Devan C. Tasa, News Editor Ω

Opposition to the proposed Ajax mine dominated discussion at a public forum held at TRU’s Alumni Theatre on Sunday afternoon.

The forum, organized by the TRU Facility Association, was held to encourage discussion and debate about the proposed Ajax mine. Concerned Kamloops citizens filled the 212-seat Alumni Theatre.

The open pit copper and gold mine would be located south of the city, with some portions of the facility located within city limits. At its northern-most point, the mine would be 1.5 kilometers away from the nearest housing development.

Eight presenters spoke at the forum, including coun. Donovan Cavers, TRU professors, local environmentalists and a trio of raging grannies singing songs in opposition to the mine. Only one presenter, unaffiliated with mining company KGHM Ajax, spoke in favour of the proposed project.

Forum organizer and political studies instructor Derek Cook said both pro- and anti-mine voices would be able to speak if they registered in advance and were willing to answer questions from the audience.

“I was surprised, actually, that I didn’t get more pro-mine people asking to speak,” he said.

Speaking in favour of the mine, TRU finance professor Shahriar Hasan said according to Statistics Canada, Kamloops’ population growth was low, there were fewer jobs for younger families and unemployment was around 8.5 per cent.

“All of these numbers leads me to think: what’s the best way to energize the economy?” he said.

The 870 jobs the mine could provide would only be a first step in reversing that trend, Hasan added.

The other speakers weren’t convinced the potential economic boost would counteract any negative effects.

Elma Schemenauer, a children’s book author, said she was concerned dust from the mine would blow into the city and expose the developing bodies of children to heavy metals

“Dad or mom might make good money in the mine,” she said, “but is it worth it if our city’s children gasp for breath, struggle with school and strain the health care system challenged by a loss of doctors that moved their families to cleaner, healthier communities?”

Frank Dwyer, a fisher that’s been involved in naturalist organizations, feared the amount of water the mine would take from Thompson River would further harm the salmon fishery.

“The Thompson is a river that is on its knees and Ajax’s impact will probably drive it into the ground,” he said.

Other concerns expressed included the effect the mine could have on the city’s image, the willingness of international students to locate to TRU, a potential for the side of the pit to collapse in a mudslide and the ability for the city and local First Nations to participate in the environmental assessment process.

Bronwen Scott, local environmentalist, reminded the audience the decision to go ahead with the mine hasn’t happened yet.

“We’ve beaten these things. We beat the Hat Creek coal project. We beat the Ashcroft toxic waste incinerator. We’ve got fluoride out of Kamloops drinking water,” she said. “We stopped the creosote burner and we can stop this.”

Coun. Donovan Cavers, one of two Kamloops city councillors opposed to the mine, was asked if the city would have a referendum on the issue.

It is possible to have one, but the chances were “very low,” he said, adding he was told it wouldn’t be binding if there was one.

Cook said it was important to hold the forum.

“In a democracy, people need to get together and express their views and their will to the elected politicians,” he said. “The people, as we saw today, have views on this.”

The forum was the first in a series about mining. The next one will take place on Oct. 7 at the same location.