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Polish copper major KGHM Ajax mine project challenged with by community

Concerns are being raised who is paying for an city review of a proposal for a new mine near Kamloops, B.C., but the mayor says the mining company will have no involvement other than footing the bill.

KGHM’s proposed Ajax open-pit gold and copper mine would be partially located within the city limits. The company has yet to file its submission for joint federal and provincial environmental approval.

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When that does happen, to address local concerns Kamloops City Council has promised an independent review of KGHM’s proposal by an outside consultant at a cost of $300,000.

However, the fact that KGHM is picking up the tab for that consultant has some calling foul.

“I think it’s great that the city has realized that they too need to find experts or consultants for a review,” said Cynthia Ross Friedman of the Coalition of Concerned Community Groups, which opposes the mine.

“The problem is with the proponent putting money to a project they’re being reviewed on … there’s an obvious conflict of interest there.”

Friedman says that Kamloops is divided over the project, and needs what she calls a “truly independent review” to provide information.

She said that such a review would need to take into account all concerns, including those of First Nations, and needs to be completely free of perception of bias.However, Kamloops Mayor Peter Milobar says he’s confident that the city’s review will be independent and will receive no input from KGHM at all, including who will do the review in the first place.

The city has hired SLR Consulting, an international environmental consultancy with an office in Kamloops to conduct the review.

Although the firm has worked with mines in the past, Milobar says it has no connection with KGHM and has never worked with the company before.

Furthermore, Milobar says opponents raising concerns about the review are not actually interested in an independent review of the project.

“If you’re adamantly opposed to the mine … I’m not going to sit here and design a process that is ultimately trying to appease people that have already made up their minds,” he said. “The bar always seems to move.”

“Frankly, I’m worried about making sure that we have a good, thorough review of a very large document in a very short period of time so that council can base comments, both pro and con.”

Milobar sees no problem with the city accepting the money from the company to pay for the review because the city will be calling the shots, and for the city to pay for the review itself would require a 0.3 per cent property tax increase.

The Coalition of Concerned Community Groups has been fundraising to do their own review, and has raised just over $31,000 to pay for different consultants.

KGHM’s formal proposal for the mine is expected to be submitted in the next few weeks. cbc.ca

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