Kamloops city council officially opposes proposed Ajax mine

Council was almost unanimous in voicing its opposition, but the decision on the mine's future is, ultimately, not theirs to make.

Coun. Pat Wallace votes against majority, says mine is 'an opportunity' for city

A view of the Ajax mine site on the outskirts of Kamloops (photo courtesy of KGHM/Ajax)

The City of Kamloops is now officially against the proposed Ajax open-pit copper and gold mine.

The mine would sit near the city's southern boundary and has been debated locally for several years by advocates, business leaders, First Nations and the city.

On Monday, city council voted 4-2 to register its opposition to it.

"Not one of us here enjoys denying our community opportunity or a chance to better their opportunity," Coun. Dieter Duty said at Monday's council meeting. "Sometimes, we need to take the unpopular stand because that is what favours the overall good of the city."

Duty said the mine was too close to city limits and said it could harm the environment and human health. "Sometimes, prosperity just isn't worth it."

He says if the mine was further from the city, he might support it but still has environmental concerns.

Councillor says mine 'an opportunity'

KGHM, the company proposing the mine, says it will bring 500 full-time jobs once running and another 1,800 jobs during construction.

If approved, the city and KGHM have reached an agreement on annual community benefits worth $3.8 million.

The only councillor in support of the mine Monday was Pat Wallace.

"To me, Ajax is an opportunity to strengthen our economic future in terms of investment in our community, local businesses and employment," she said. "I'm confident the environmental assessment process is thorough and comprehensive."

Local assessments raised concerns

The city's opposition also contains no conditions under which it would approve the mine, but it's not making the final decision on the mine anyway. The federal government will decide its fate.

The city did conduct its own assessment of the project, which raised "uncertainties" about human health, water quality and other environmental impacts.

The assessment viewed other aspects of the mine more favourably, but some criticized it for being paid for by KGHM. Then-mayor Peter Milobar said the company had no input into the assessment.

The local Stk'emlúpsemc te Secwépemc Nation rejected the proposal in March after doing an assessment of its own.

It raised environmental concerns and said the land around Jacko Lake, where the mine would be located, holds great spiritual and cultural significance.

With files from Maryse Zeidler and CBC Radio One's Radio West