[KGHM International and Abacus Mining] Ajax mine: Working to put all the pieces together – by Steve Powrie (Kamloops This Week.com – August 1, 2012)


As the Ajax mine battle heats up, it offers an interesting case study in the use of propaganda and rhetoric to persuade we ignorant masses toward particular points of view.

And, because billions of dollars are at stake for a huge multi-national mining company and the quality of life is potentially at risk due to the mine’s location perched on and above Kamloops, emotions and passions are running high.

The “yea-sayers” are accused of seeing only the pot of gold sitting in the midst of environmental armageddon. The “fear-mongerers” with their Chicken Little notions simply don’t understand it’s “jobs, jobs, jobs” that will keep Kamloops moving forward. In the midst of all this, two recent and rather low-key events caught my mind’s eye.

A few months ago, a suggestion by Pierre Gratton, the president of the Canadian Mining Association, that Kamloops has the “potential to become the hub of the mining industry for Western Canada” tweaked my curiosity as it seemed a rather lofty claim.

Then, the recent announcement that another mining exploration company, Discovery-Corp Enterprises, was planning to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars this summer exploring the open-pit mining potential of the land just above the Pineview neighborhood left me questioning whether Ajax is simply the starting point of a much larger mining plan for the Kamloops region.

Unwilling to continue suspending judgment until the environmental-assessment process is complete, I set out on a research and discovery mission to find out as much as I could from the various perspectives.

First, I went to the KGHM Ajax and the Abacus Mining websites and plodded meticulously through hundreds of pages of maps showing the numerous mine sites being considered in the Kamloops region, geological profiles of the mineralization potentials, assay results from tens of thousands of metres of drilled core samples, recommendations for mineral recovery and financial records detailing projected costs and profit returns.

I visited stopajaxmine.ca and read about the potential risks to our quality of life and how it will change the Kamloops vision.

The government website on the environmental-assessment process gives a blow-by-blow description of the approval process for major projects. I even went to the websites of the cities that Ajax lists as existing quite nicely next to open-pit mines.

(Yikes! Not a pretty picture. If I was an Ajax official, I’d drop this line of defence).

What I found were a few facts, plenty of projections, lofty goals and promises, and gloom-and doom-predictions — all with a litany of numbers and graphs masquerading as facts.There were also a number of nice photos, ranging from what looks like a rainbow coming out of the old Afton pit to a ferocious sandstorm obscuring Kamloops.

But, through this process, I now know that Discovery-Corp’s exploration announcement is simply one of a number of much larger proposals waiting in line for an Ajax mine go-ahead to open the door and, as a result, why Gratton sees Kamloops as a potential mining mecca.

The scope of this mine-on-the-edge-of-a-city issue is considerably broader than the Ajax mine itself. Kamloops is at the crossroads of what has the potential to be one of the more significant and defining directions in its 200-year history.

Do we continue to venture down the path of the past 20 years of evolving into an increasingly diversified city, both economically and demographically? Or do we return to the days when a single-resource economy was the predominant driver and influence on the character of our community (check out those “mine cities”)?

Most of the Kamloops region is covered in a patchwork of subsurface mining claims, which is not particularly uncommon as  much of the province is covered in “just in case there’s gold in them there hills” claims and remain inactive.

However, since 2002, Abacus Mining has spent millions of dollars acquiring the mineral rights in large tracts of land both within and on the edge of the city boundaries, and millions more on explorative drilling and analysis.

For the rest of this editorial, please go to the Kamloops This Week website: http://www.kamloopsthisweek.com/opinion/letters/164618896.html