In Response to Terry Lake's Defense of the Provincial Assessment Process

Posted by Don Barz on November 2nd, 2011 4:31pm

The following letter was sent by Don Barz to the Editor of Kamloops This Week in response to Terry Lake's defense of the provincial assessment process. In this article:, Terry Lake explains his position on the federal review panel.

But, Lake did express his concern to KTW over Kamloops city council's recent move to ask for a joint-panel review of the project, a request that was echoed this week by the Thompson-Nicola Regional District.

Specifically, the Kamloops-North Thompson Liberal MLA questioned whether council made its decision based on full information about the process.

He suggested they did so relying on details from an outside group.

Don's letter is in response to these comments. We'd also like to note, as the article does, that the TNRD also voted in favor of a federal review panel. 


Editor, Kamloops This Week:

As one of the members of the “outside group”  that prompted Kamloops City Council to support a resolution calling for a federal review panel into the proposed Ajax Mine (Kamloops This Week, Nov 2nd), I wish to respond to Environment Minister Terry Lake’s defense of the current assessment being conducted by the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office.

The major fault with the EAO is that it does not practice what it preaches.  The assertion that people’s concerns and opinions are noted and addressed early in the process through the Ajax working group, has not been my experience.  One of my concerns is the lack of disclosure of project documents.  Since the beginning of August, I have been requesting to both KGHM Ajax and the BC EAO to disclose copies of studies cited as references in the Ajax Project Description, or submitted to the Working Group.  To date, I have been unsuccessful.  Several emails requesting the disclosure of such studies have gone unanswered, from both KGHM Ajax and the EAO, including an email sent September 19th to Nicole Vinette, EAO Project Assessment Manager for the Ajax project, asking what the protocol is for obtaining these studies.  I have yet to receive a reply.

One study, the January 2011 test blast results, was submitted to some Working Group members in July.  In September, I asked Jen Fretz, the sole City of Kamloops representative on the 45 person Working Group, if I could have a copy of the test blast results.  She replied that she could not because of the threat of legal repercussions from the proponent.  This raises the question of who is running the environmental assessment process for Ajax: the proponent or government?

The B.C. government assessment process for Ajax is beginning to look like the process the government conducted for the Prosperity Mine.  In May 2009, the owners of the Taseko Lake Lodge wrote a four page letter to the EAO raising concerns about the impact of the proposed tailings area on their business.  According to a report on the environmental assessment process for the Prosperity Mine by the Northwest Institute, this letter was essentially “brushed aside” by the EAO.  However, a year later, a federal review panel appointed to assess the mine concluded that the ground level concentrations of particulate matter from the tailings area, located three kilometres away, could exceed air quality standards at the lodge.

Residents of Kamloops should note that three elementary schools (Pacific Way, Aberdeen, and McGowan Park) are located less than three kilometres from the proposed waste rock dumps for Ajax.  In the Project Description (page 22) for the proposed mine, it is acknowledged that noise and dust contamination will be emitted from the waste rock dumps. Could particulate matter concentrations at these schools also exceed air quality standards?

Other than the “Micky Mouse” open house meetings like the one held on June 16th, and the 60 day comment period the EAO conducts, there is no other opportunity for the public to ensure that their concerns will not be swept under the bureaucratic rug.  In contrast, one of the main features of a federal review panel is public hearings where citizens have intervener status to ensure that their issues are addressed in an open forum and not brushed aside by the essentially “in-house” paper exercise conducted by the EAO.

As a closing note, I do not fault the many dedicated civil servants who toil away on our behalf.  But when civil servants fear law suits, or ask that their names not be used when conveying information that should be public, we should be concerned that the Ajax mine approval may already be a done deal, and the B.C. environmental assessment process is nothing but a façade designed to legitimize the decision.  A federal review panel is still subject to manipulation by politicians, but because of the much greater level of public involvement, there is less risk of this happening than with the current environmental assessment process for the Ajax mine.


Don Barz


There are currently no comments on this blog post.

Post a Comment