The Great Ajax Mine Debate

Posted by Stop Ajax Mine on July 21st, 2011 2:04pm


There are many good folks in Kamloops and Area who would agree with Jim Harrison’s Editorial Comment on radio NL July 7th.  We do need to be reminded from time to time that we have a fine history in the contribution that was made to our economy by Afton Mines, Tech Corp and others who at one point made the City a mining centre of some importance. Mr. Harrison went on to opine that, “The City has another opportunity to once again become a centre of mining importance, with the proposed Ajax Mine, and just up the North Thompson, the Yellowhead Mine……(and people) they need to be reminded that mining made Kamloops what it is today, and the city shouldn't squander the opportunity it has to help Kamloops regain its reputation as a world centre for mining.”


What is missing from Mr. Harrison’s opinion however is a bit of fact and reality. The mining companies of yore, and including more recently the folks running the New Gold and Yellowhead Mine, did not and are not going to carry out their operations inside the City of Kamloops. They did not have their trucks, machines, tailings, dust, polluted waters, arsenic laden material and water drenched with heavy metals in the back yard of town folks. They did not have the heavy dust from dynamite blasting and grinding operations and heavy vehicles chewing up the roadways washing over the city turning drying clothes on clotheslines black with soot, floors gritty with grunge and lungs suffering mortality from the clouds of fine grime floating over the rooftops and coloring the buildings with a dirty grey shade over top whatever colour was there before. They did not have people with respiratory ailments from mine dust, coughing away their days on earth. They were out of town, miles away.

The Ajax mine will be partially within the city limits and less than one kilometre from Aberdeen. I do not know where Mr. Harrison lives, but if he did live in Aberdeen I am sure he would be one of the first to grouse and give voice in protest to the ceaseless noise of explosions, groaning grinding mills, whining heavy duty vehicle motors and dust, the ever present, all encompassing house hold penetrating particulate matter that will cover the city, creeping into every crevice you could imagine and settling inside our bodies. 

Then there will be the barren landscape right next to Aberdeen going over to the Coquihalla Highway that will have eradicated Inks Lake, Jacko Lake, and many others along with Peterson Creek. It will be an interesting landscape and perhaps the astronauts will visit us and practice for a landing on Mars as they did at Sudbury a few years ago. They can scale down the walls of a one kilometre deep pit that will expand about a kilometre wide gap in the earth and trudge over dried settling ponds that will have evaporated billions of gallons of water with arsenic, heavy metals and any number of fine poisons and acids. It will all be there long after Ajax leaves in 2035; a place where your grand kids can go and dare each other to see who will make it across that barren land.

And there is no one around at this time who will see to it that none of this will happen. The British Columbia government Ministry of the Environment Assessment agency is a joke. The Auditor General has already told us that. So far the federal government is not involved. So where is the voice of reason? Where is the wisdom?

We know from other mining operations exactly like that proposed by Ajax Mine of the horrendous pollution and irreversible damage to the environment and the ecosystem that they will create. It is documented! It is known! We know of the terrible cost from respiratory diseases that dust from the mine can bring to people in Kamloops! We know of the appalling cost to the environment and our tranquil home area; its peace and quiet scenery. It will add up to millions and millions of dollars. How much is one life worth, or twenty?

Mr Harrison talks of an opportunity. Yes it most certainly is an opportunity. But not for the people who call the Kamloops area home.

And what is sadder still is that most of the economic opportunity will not be here but thousands of miles away in Eastern Europe and elsewhere. For every job created in Kamloops there will be three someplace else. For every million dollars of economic benefit we receive there will be ten times that going home to the investors. But we will need our money to pay for the damage done to our city and its people. They will use it to play in the resorts of Europe. To add insult to injury, the BC government may contribute as much as $180 million to help get the mine started. They can provide up to thirty percent of development costs. So while we might appreciate $230 million net incomes from the mine, most of that will have been paid for by the BC government.

Now I just “gotta” ask you this; all that copper and gold is not going to rot in the ground like potatoes in the field. So why not leave it there until it becomes valuable enough that it can be removed by underground mining and processing? In the meantime let’s have the BC government help us set up in the city a first rate New Venture Creation program, supported by a few million dollars a year that will develop as many as one thousand, two thousand jobs or more in the next decade. Now that is a clean way to create jobs. Good jobs. Clean jobs. Jobs that will hire the kids coming out of TRU for example, instead of forcing them to leave home, maybe for Poland because good jobs are not here.  

Ken Blawatt, B.Sc. (ME), MBA, Ph.D. (P.Eng.)
Adjunct Professor SFU & TRU, retired.


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