A divided TNRD board narrowly voted today (Thursday, May 12, 2016) not to ask KGHM Ajax to fund an independent health-impact study on the copper mine proposed for Electoral Area J in the regional district.
The motion was made a month ago but was postponed until today so staff could provide a summary of public debate around the issue. I made the motion because of ongoing questions about health effects of the mine. It asked that “a request be submitted to KGHM requesting that KGHM fund a fully independent and comprehensive health impact study on the effects of the proposed Ajax Mine project.”
The motion arose from an earlier presentation by KGHM Ajax project manager Clyde Gillespie, who replied when I asked him about the possibility of such funding that if the TNRD were to ask, the company would consider it. KGHM Ajax had insisted up to then that the study wasn’t needed.
Director Ronaye Elliott, in whose electoral area the mine would be built, opposed the motion, saying many questions have been asked about Ajax and it’s time to get to a decision. “We have seen, heard and read” a great deal about the mine, she said.
John Harwood, the mayor of Clearwater, echoed Elliott’s remarks, saying all questions will be answered within the environmental review process.
I find the notion that we should stop asking questions about health impacts disappointing. I argued that the staff report showed the polar opposites between the Ajax submission and those who are concerned that the mine will create health issues. In addition, the public debate has not waned even though the official public comment period has ended. This week, a consultant said KGHM Ajax has miscalculated the emissions rate for nitrogren oxide for blasting by 1,000 times, and for dust emissions by 24 times.
I also pointed out Kamloops physicians have been asking for such a study for years, and that IHA and Ministry of Environment acknowledge they have limited resources to review health impacts.
Asking for clarity on potential health impacts isn’t about being for or against the mine. KGHM Ajax has stated several times it welcomes scrutiny. Three electoral areas including J, L and our own Area P touch on the 30 km. study circle drawn around the minesite by KGHM for the purposes of its application, so it’s a regional issue.
All we had to do was ask for the money to probe further so KGHM would consider it. I felt it was a question worth asking. Unfortunately, the motion was defeated 14-11 — if a pair of votes had gone the other way we would have had a chance to get important information about potential health effects from the mine.
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