The vote was close, but Coun. Tina Lange’s motion to lobby for more authority on issues involving mineral rights in or near the city got buried Tuesday.
Lange noted that the current mineral tenure act is old and outdated and allows mining exploration and development to take precedent over all other interests on a land base, including private land.
The federal and provincial governments can override the City’s rights or decisions on mineral rights issues, she said.
She put forward a motion that the City ask the Union of B.C. Municipalities for support in a call for cities, regional districts and municipalities to have some authority in mineral rights.
It was defeated by a four to five vote.
Coun. Nancy Bepple, who has stepped out of discussions on the Ajax mine proposal because she owns shares in a related company and her partner has business connections, spoke against the motion.
Most of the towns and cities in B.C. are near mines because those communities were established as a result of mining, she said.
Coun. Donovan Cavers asked if Bepple was in conflict, but was told no because the discussion was on the mineral right act, not Ajax itself.
Coun. Ken Christian was also opposed to Lange’s motion.
He felt the City should stick to its mandate of providing garbage pickup, water, sewer and other services.
“As local government, we find ourselves tripping over ourselves getting involved in other people's business,” he said.
Lange said the provincial and federal government would still hand out the licences and oversee the mine, but the City would have some say.
“When we're talking an open pit mine within City boundaries, is it not right that taxpayers here have some say as to how that happens? This asks for a modernization so we have an ability to give input. We've been told loud and clear we don't have that.
“Ajax's claim has one square kilometre in Kenna Cartwright Park. It wouldn’t happen, but they have the right to go in and dig it up. It's not about throwing out the act, it's about modernizing it. Public engagement is important.”
Coun. Nelly Dever said the motion doesn’t ask for a veto, but for modernization of a 150-year-old act.
"Personally, I have felt pretty helpless with the situation that we're in with Ajax,” she said.
Coun. Marg Spina said while she is disappointed council doesn’t get more regular updates from the Ajax process, and she wished there was a better way for constituents’ voices to be heard. She also felt council should stick with its current mandate.
Mayor Peter Milobar said there have been other, similar motions taken to UBCM and they haven’t changed anything.
Lange said if nothing gets put forward, nothing changes.
"If you don't ask, if you don't get involved, you don't get changes."
Her motion was supported by Dever, Singh and Cavers.
Opposed were Christian, Spina, Milobar, Bepple and Coun. Pat Wallace.