Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency Reviews

Posted by Stop Ajax Mine on August 26th, 2011 7:16pm

Since the early 1990s the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency had conducted, or is currently conducting panel reviews for thirteen mine projects. A review of the project settings reveals that none of the projects is located adjacent to, or even close to (i.e., less than 10 kilometres) from an urban area. In this respect, the proposed Ajax Mine located partially within the boundaries of the City of Kamloops is unique. It is estimated that 80,000 of the 90,000 citizens in Kamloops live within 10 kilometre of the fringes of the proposed waste rock facilities, open pit and dry tailings storage facility.

The communities within Kamloops that are in this 10 km. include: Iron Mask, Aberdeen, Knutsford, Rose Hill, Pine Valley, Dufferin, Sahali, South Kamloops, Brocklehurst, North Kamloops, Batchelor Hills, Westmount, the south end of Westsyde, Juniper and Valleyview. Also all of the populated areas on the Kamloops Indian Reserve are located in this zone, including the community of Sun Rivers. Other residents who are also not included in the 80,000 figure are the several thousand out of town students attending Thompson Rivers University. Most of these students do not live in Kamloops during the summer months, but during this time, occupancy rates in the many hotels and motels often reach 100%. Also, there are residents in the Thompson Nicola Regional District outside City boundaries living within 10 km., many living on ranches, and some living within metres of proposed mining activities. Adding in these non-City residents, it is likely that 90,000 people live within 10 km. of the proposed mine. Finally, it must be stressed that most of these people live downwind and down slope of the proposed mine.

In May 2011, based, it would appear, on misleading information provided by the proponent, KHGM-Ajax, particularly the statement by the proponent that the mine is located 10 kilometres from the City of Kamloops, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency decided to hold a Comprehensive Study, a second-level environmental assessment, rather than a panel review, which is the top-level environmental assessment available in Canada.

Based on population alone, it is estimated that for the 13 mining projects the CEAA has subjected to a panel review, the total population living within 10 kilometres of these projects is approximately 20,000 people. Comparatively speaking, more than four times more people in the Kamloops region live closer to the proposed mine than all of these projects combined.

A closer comparison of the Ajax project to each of the 13 mining projects subject to a panel review raises a fundamental question of why the CEAA had decided not to conduct a panel review of the Ajax project.

Marathon Platinum Group Metals and Copper Mine Project

In terms of project activities, this project most closely resembles the Ajax proposal, given that the principle ore being mined is copper. Also both projects are open pit mines. However, in terms of scale, the Marathon project is only one third the size; processing 22,000 tonnes of ore per day, compared to 60,000 tonnes per day for Ajax. In terms of project lifespan, the Marathon is exactly half of the Ajax mine: 11.5 years versus 23 years. The only nearby community is Marathon, population 3,863, located 10 kilometres south of the proposed mine. On these simple comparisons alone, it would appear that the Ajax mine warrants at least the same level of scrutiny as the Marathon mine.

Voisey’s Bay, Kemess, and Prosperity Mines

These mines, as large and controversial as two of them have been, do not have any urban centres anywhere near the projects. The decisions to subject these mines to panel reviews must have been made on environmental and Native concerns.


This is a proposed coal mine south of Hinton Alberta. The only community close to the project is Cadomin, population 56, located 12 km. from the mine.

Jackpine Mine Expansion, Joslyn Mine, Pierre River Mine, Kearl Lake Oil Sands and Muskeg River Mine Expansion

All of these projects are in the Athabasca oil sands region. The closest community is Fort Mackay, population of less than 1,000. The closest mine to Fort Mackay is the Jackpine project, located 14 km. from the community.

There is no question that the scale, environmental impacts, and effects on the Native community in this region warrant panel reviews.

Northern Saskatchewan Uranium

The setting is described by the Panel Report for this review as “sparsely populated”.

No urban centres or even rural communities are located near the proposed mines.

As with oil sands development, there is no dispute that any project related to nuclear energy should be subject to the highest level of environmental assessment.

Elliot Lake Uranium Tailings

Of the mine projects that have been subject to the highest level of environmental assessment in Canada, Elliot Lake is the most populous of the locations where such panel reviews took place, and Elliot Lake’s population in 2006 was only 11,549, down from 16,723 in 1981. Several tailings areas associated with shut down mines lie to the north and east of Elliot Lake. The aforementioned remarks about nuclear energy apply equally to Elliot Lake.

Lac Doré Vanadium Mine Project

This mine proposal is located 70 km SE of Chibougamau, the nearest urgan centre, population 7,5653.

White Point Quarry Project

The Whites Point Quarry project would produce 40,000 tonnes of aggregate a week. Ajax will process 60,000 tonnes of ore a day. Yet Whites Point was subject to a full panel review, while Ajax is not. The proposed Quarry is located on Digby Neck, a sparsely populated rural area with a population of likely less than 1,000 permanent residents.

The closest town to White Point is Digby, population 2,092, approximately 34 kilometres away.

Based on proximity to communities, the above analysis clearly shows that none of the 13 mines subject to panel reviews come close to impinging on an urban centre the size of Kamloops. Assuming that the CEAA is aware of the close proximity of the Ajax mine to the City of Kamloops, the CEAA must have rejected a panel review for Ajax on the basis of expected minimal environmental impacts and a low level of community concern.


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