Friday, June 14, 2013

Kamloops Ajax Mine

Ajax – Opportunity for Kamloops


Inverine Consultancy - Neil E. Thomson

The Ajax mine proposal has been a controversial issue in the Kamloops community. Kamloops splits down the middle on issues like Ajax, although this time there apparently is more than political concerns at play, in fact, some odd bedfellows have been made. Even labour representation has been cleaved locally, with some government labour opposing and industrial labour supporting the project. The business community in the main  favours the project, at least tacitly, few are willing to expose their bottom line to the wrath of the opposition. Regardless of who “wins” one of two things are for sure to be, it will happen or it won't, if it doesn't happen then the City will carry on, if it does happen the city will carry on – if it does happen however, the city needs to have influence over operational practices of the mine; this should provide the motivation for our city leadership to manage the execution of the project NOW.  

Where the residential area ends and the grasslands begin, there exists essentially the same ecosystem, save of course the residential area has houses on it, which will be the case in the future for the proposed mine site, regardless if it is mined or not.

It helps some times to begin with the end in mind, that is to say in this case, the one option – no mine – is business as usual, the other option – a mine – generates another outcome. So for a moment let’s contemplate the best possible outcome of the mine project being implemented. Assuming that all the concerns related to water, air, property values and visual quality are satisfied and the mine proceeds, what might we do as a community to have something left there that is an asset, rather than just an old mine; notwithstanding the known legislated reclamation requirements.

Imagine if you will a time line requirement of, say, 25 years, from the beginning of mining to full extraction of all valued minerals; at the close of mining activates the city can plan for a residential development to replace the mine site. With this in mind, a model residential development site could be part and parcel of the mining process. So rather than a rectangular pile of rock as a tailings pile, the site could be sculpted perfectly to suite residential lots. Lots, with the perfect southern exposure, a sculpted lake, a geothermal complex for community heating and perhaps a nine hole executive golf course. The point here is, that what some perceive as destruction can be managed to provision a superior outcome if that outcome is planned for. I offer the residential development for thought, only because, that is what would have happened anyway.

There are legitimate concerns for any project of this type and size, so we do need to be vigilant to see that the citizenry of Kamloops interests are cared for. The proximity of operation to a large center is somewhat unique and requires special interface to facilitate a successful outcome. The City of Kamloops has to be firm in demanding a seat at the table and demand of the provincial and federal governments the development of a Long Term Operating Agreement, that spells out clearly what the City’s expectations are AND provision the City with a “veto” style intervention capacity should expectations at any point in the future fail to be met.

There has been a lot of verbiage offered by the people opposed to the project with respect to City Image; implying that the presence of the mine would start us down the path to an industrial wasteland rather that an enlightened university town. I invite people to drive from Ashcroft to Logan Lake, you will pass by a very large mining operation and, if you’re honest, you will have to admit you hardly noticed. In fact, the “tailings pond” is kind of pretty, with an azure hue – it is really un-offensive. There is no real detriment to the City’s image from the mine, we had a mine nearby for years and it went nearly unnoticed.   

Here is the economic reality of Kamloops, we under perform in providing meaningful employment for our young people. I frequent the same restaurant every morning for coffee, the caliber of young people I meet working there, for a pretty dismal wage, is staggering. The opposition to the mine is coming from people who are established, union people with jobs, medical professionals with jobs and environmentalists, most of whom have jobs or are the beneficiary of generous pension plans. Consider Frank & Sally, living in an apartment grinding for a low wage, they have two kids and need a life too. I want the young people of Kamloops to have a reason to stay; the chronic resistance to development from some quarters in the city is nothing short of selfish. We simply have to do better.

There is a large bank of base data on relative real estate values for various areas of the city, we can easily determine if residents home values are affected. We can then establish as a part of a Long Term Operating Agreement the monitoring of home values and have as a term and condition of operation for the mine, the mitigation of losses incurred. We also, more than any other community due to the pulp mill monitoring over the years, have base data with respect to particulate and air quality in general. Once again, it is a matter of setting limits agreeable to the City with respect to air quality as a part of a Long Term Operating Agreement.

I believe this project is manageable in the context of Kamloops present quality of life and has the potential in the end to enhance quality of life, the City needs however; to take aggressive measures to design the interface between itself and other concerned parties – NOW.       

See Letter to Terry Lake Below. 

Neil E. Thomson
#8 – 3031 Westsyde Road Kamloops BC, V2B 0E4

January 9, 2012

Honourable Dr. Terry Lake
V8W 9E2
Telephone: 250 387-1187 Fax: 250 387-1356

Sent Via Email to:,

Dear Dr. Lake,

RE: Ajax Mine

As I know you’re aware, the economic expansion the Ajax Mine represents for the Kamloops and area is significant. It is my opinion the negative effects from the mine’s operation; air quality, visual quality and audible intrusion are all able to be mitigated. Detailed discourse with respect to the project is outside the scope of this communication, it suffice to say that, should you be counting supports and nay sayers - as it is wise to do as an elected Politician – you have a supporter here for the mine and of the BC Liberals.

It is my opinion that the pursuit of a federal review panel on the part of some parties is an act of obstruction rather that a legitimate attempt at good process. Further, British Columbia needs to rebuke strongly the perpetual advancement into provincial affairs by the federal government. The federal government’s processes have intruded and arrested several projects of late, this is a trend that must be challenged; I believe your actions have been consistent with this concern to date.

It is my assessment that the federal government is eager to collapse the layers of government that are responsible for redundancy and moving decision making away from the point of action and that if the province asserts itself, the provincial government will be permitted to administer its own back yard.
For Kamloops, the key consideration in interfacing with the mine operations should be the creation of a stakeholder mine oversight board at which the City of Kamloops has strong representation, this board in conjunction with an Extended Term Operating Agreement between mine ownership, the provincial government and the City would provide a means to secure the interests of Kamloops citizens throughout the mines operation.

I have contacted federal government members expressing my support of the project should you be interested in copies of correspondence.

Thank you for your leadership on this matter.

Neil E. Thomson

Letter to Peter Kent
Neil E. Thomson
#8 – 3031 Westsyde Road Kamloops BC, V2B 0E4
December 2, 2011

Honourable Peter Kent
401 Confederation Building
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario. K1A 0A6

Dear Sir,

Thank you for accommodating our Kamloops political representatives and allowing them to air their views on the matter of the Ajax Mine.

The Kamloops area's economy has a "newly" (since the 1980) diversified economy. However, many of our young people are grossly underemployed and employment opportunities of substance are wanting. The overall economic benefit promised by the Ajax Mine for Kamloops and region is most necessary.
For several years another mine operated only slightly further away from the city as the proposed operation, in fact the proposed mine is an adjunct to the old mine. The old mine offered no perceivable negative impact on the residents of Kamloops and its aftermath is certainly tolerable.

There is another mine in the region located near Logan Lake that provides considerable economic benefit for Kamloops and area. Their ore reserves are becoming depleted; this reality will threaten their viability in the near term and likely result in a closure in the medium term.

The people detracting from the mines operation have valid concerns, if one can manage to filter through the rhetoric. The primary opposition is emanating from residents concerned that their property values are going to be negatively affected. If said residents had their market concerns appropriately addressed they would likely be more agreeable. Of course there is concern for noise and vibration, when you tour the site you will understand from the lay of the land that these concerns while valid, are unwarranted.
The environment movement's concerns are largely preservationist concerns, it hard to imagine any real environment concerns from the perspective of bio diversity and the like. There are mitigation opportunities for any of the legitimate concerns related to air quality, visual quality (tourism concern) or impact on the watershed.

For all the reasons aforementioned, the mine project nets out positive. There needs to be strict monitoring and an Extended Term Operating Agreement that involves the City in ongoing monitoring and control of the operation. An Extended Term Operation Agreement with teeth, that enforces effective compliance with agreed operational modalities.
Mining falls squarely in provincial jurisdiction; I take offense at the federal government involving itself in these sorts of decisions. We keep applying layer upon layer of byzantine process and moving decision making further from the point of action, this trend is alarming. May I remind you where your political bread is buttered, we have lost one mining project to federal review already. The last thing we need is more review, whatever leverage the federal government has in this matter should be directed to ensuring stakeholder oversight of operations, as opposed to pandering to obstructive elements.

I am looking forward to your leadership on this issue, thank you for your good service to date.

Neil E. Thomson


Cathy McLeod MP
Mayor Peter Milobar
Senator Nancy Greene Raine

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