Town hall meeting will launch City’s Ajax review

Posted by Stop Ajax Mine on September 10th, 2015 10:38am

Town hall meeting will launch City's Ajax review.
Council agrees to five-stage process over six months

by Mike Youds,
August 18, 2015

Council has voted unanimously to adopt an elaborate five-stage consultation and review process on the Ajax Mine proposal with added provisions to ensure sufficient public input.

“This is the City’s process,” said Glen Farrow, environmental services supervisor, as he laid out a detailed timeline for addressing what is generally considered the most important single development confronting Kamloops. 

“This is the City’s step in moving forward.”

Farrow said the City’s review, incorporating an independent review by SLR Consulting, is designed to dovetail with the established 180-day review period and the consultant’s requirements. The goal is to have City council fully prepared to make its decision on the project review before the end of the six-month review period.

The province’s environmental assessment would allow additional input from the public within that time frame.

The review period required by the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office could begin any day with proponent KGHM saying it is prepared to submit its environmental permit application in late summer or fall. 

Within that six-month time period, there is a 30-day phase at the outset in which the BCEAO decides whether KGHM’s environmental permit application is complete or whether it needs revision by the proponent. A second phase of 75 days after KGHM’s submission is allotted for public comment on the application.

Coun. Tina Lange noted that few environmental permit applications are accepted by BCEAO in the initial 30-day phase. It’s more likely the application would go back to KGHM, allowing for another 30-day period when it is resubmitted.

Despite what Coun. Arjun Singh described as an aggressive timeline from the consultant’s perspective, council wanted to ensure that groups and individuals have sufficient opportunities to give input on the City’s review.

“I think this is a well thought out plan,” said Coun. Denis Walsh. “This is a very divisive issue in this community,” he added, suggesting they increase the length of an initial public consultation to three hours from the two hours recommended, “so that everybody gets a proper hearing and one group doesn’t hijack the mike.”

Others agreed.

“I think it should be open-ended, but I don’t believe it should be 5 o’clock,” said Coun. Dieter Dudy, who suggested a 7 p.m. start.

Coun. Marg Spina wanted a 6 p.m. start in consideration of seniors, many of whom don’t drive after dark.

“I think we have to meet the needs of everybody, not just the working public,” she said.

The meeting would be held at Interior Savings Centre to accommodate a large turnout.

“I have a feeling in my mind this is a meeting that will attract 1,000 people,” said Coun. Tina Lange.

Coun. Pat Wallace said she wouldn’t support an open-ended meeting: “I just think we need to be definitive.”

They settled on a 6-9 p.m. gathering and switched terminology from “open house” to “town hall meeting” to reflect a lively discourse rather than a passive presentation.

Ultimately, the City has no decisionmaking authority on whether or not the mine development proceeds. That decision rests with the B.C. cabinet based on recommendations from the BCEAO and the B.C. Ministry of Mines, Energy and Natural Gas.

"I think it's important we make sure ownership of the issue belongs to Environmental Assessment," said Coun. Ken Christian. "We need to make sure that we are not talking about our own environmental assessment process. This is about taking additional input."

Farrow said there is no confirmation yet from KGHM whether it will share in the City’s estimated cost of $300,000 to conduct its own review.

The City’s process would play out as follows:

• The town hall meeting would focus on a list of questions the City’s consultant is to be asked to investigate. The meeting would then move on for councillors to consider any additional questions the public may want added to the list. Members of the public would be allocated three minutes to put forward their suggested questions.

• A couple of months into the 180-day review period, a special council meeting would allow for presentation of the consultant’s preliminary review, allowing for additional public input. As a follow-up to that open house, there would be a special council workshop providing clarification of the review.

• A special council meeting would be scheduled prior to the end of a 75-day public comment period. At those meetings, the City’s consultant would present the preliminary response to KGHM’s application. They would have to be held in a location other than council chambers to allow for adequate seating.

• Around the 135th day of the 180-day review period, there would be an opportunity for council to give its official response to the application.


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