When B.C. was young and prospecting was a way to open up the land, something called the Mineral Tenure Act was created.
It limited First Nations, municipalities and regional districts from having any real influence on economic development that went on in their neighbourhoods.
That was in 1850. Mining operations cropped up, and act gave exploration and development precedence throughout the province. It created industry and jobs and revenue for Victoria.
Fast forward to 2011 and 2012, when Polish-based KGHM Ajax wants to expand on an old mine site on the edge of Kamloops.
Many residents are worried about the impacts on their properties and the environment. Others are excited at the prospect of hundreds of jobs and economic trickle down.
Since the proposal surfaced, residents have turned to their civic leaders for information and support to ensure the project won’t hurt Kamloops.
Frustration has been expressed about council’s inability to have any say. While there has been informal assurance their concerns will be dealt with, nothing guarantees any influence on whether the mine proceeds.
Council submitted a long list of questions it wanted KGHM to answer and awaits a response.
The company countered by offering to hold private meetings with incumbent and new council contenders during last fall’s municipal election campaign. That move, seen as suspect by some, blew up in KGHM’s face and the company pulled back.
Then council voted 4-3 in favour of lobbying for a federal review of the mine proposal — a review felt to be more rigorous than the provincial one being undertaken.
Obviously, council had concerns.
Federal Environment Minister Peter Kent did, at the City’s behest, come to Kamloops to visit the site. He rejected the federal review.
In March, council added three questions to its list submitted to KGHM, and cc’d B.C. Environment Minister Terry Lake.
Then the proponent made a 3-D model — council was resoundingly negative about it, particularly Mayor Peter Milobar.
So even though it has no official say, City council has tried to push for information and accountability.
It was surprising, then, that Coun. Tina Lange’s attempt to gain a louder voice for Kamloops in Ajax and other mine proposals was shot down by the same council.
Before bringing her motion forward Tuesday, Lange consulted with City sustainability and environmental services manager Jen Fretz, who told Lange there are other potential mines in this area.
Looking at a map of mineral titles online, much of the area around Kamloops is purple, indicating surveys or claims. While Ajax is the biggest mine project the city faces, there could be more ahead.
Lange wanted council to lobby the Union of B.C. Municipalities to seek changes to the Mineral Tenure Act so communities affected by mines have more influence on whether projects go ahead.
Lange was backed by councillors Nelly Dever, Arjun Singh and Donovan Cavers.
Milobar voted no, saying similar attempts haven’t succeeded at UBCM. He was joined by councillors Pat Wallace, Ken Christian, Marg Spina and Nancy Bepple.
While the Mineral Tenure Act was drafted to promote opening up a province and creating jobs, it’s hard to see how it would have been written to accommodate an established city of 90,000 suddenly facing a mine in its back yard.
As Vancouver planning consultant Andrew Ramlo noted, towns like Trail and Coalmont built up around mines, but he couldn’t list any really pretty mining or industry towns.
This isn’t a town being built around a mine. It’s a mine that wants to move into a city.
Lange was right; the act needs to be updated to include scenarios that didn’t exist when it was created.