VANCOUVER – An environmental group is asking the local bureaucrat in charge of Kamloops’ drinking water to stop a controversial billion-dollar mining project that could soon be approved by the provincial government.
The University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre mailed a letter to the local drinking-water officer Monday alleging previous environmental studies done on the Ajax Mine proposal, owned by the Polish firm KGHM, did not take into account how toxic chemicals from the open-pit copper and gold mine could contaminate surface water to leach into a nearby creek and two aquifers that provide drinking water to more than 100 residents. A Vancouver-based representative of the company was unavailable for comment on Friday.
The province is expected to issue its environmental assessment certificate as early as this fall, but this independent bureaucrat has the power to order the company to stop the project until it properly addresses the risks posed to the local water supply, according to Calvin Sandborn, the legal director of the UVic centre leading the campaign to stop the mine.
If the officer does not issue an order, they can still ask B.C.’s environment ministry to ask the company to address inadequacies in its assessment of the contaminant risks identified in a new report from an independent hydrogeologist commissioned by the centre, he said.
“The final [provincial environmental] certificate is not issued, that could happen in the fall – that’s why we’re filing this thing,” Mr. Sandborn said Friday. “Even with the certificate, the drinking-water protection order takes precedence because the Drinking Water Protection Act takes precedence over other legislation.”