The following letter was written by Dr. Kelly Orringer, Assistant Professor of General Pediatrics at the University of Michigan Faculty of Medicine and posted to the Stop Ajax Mine site on July 10, 2012. It outlines the problems we face from heavy metals in the air pollution that will be generated by the mine should it be approved:
It is well documented that the process of mining copper and gold can release heavy metals. The most common are mercury and arsenic. Others might include lead, cadmium, uranium, sulfurous oxide and cyanide. Some are direct byproducts of the substances used in the production process. Some are released naturally when the rock is exposed, split, and crushed. The heavy metals can enter the air as dust. Also, when mixed with water the toxic materials can enter nearby water sources (lakes, rivers, streams and aquifers). The surrounding soil can also be contaminated.
In specific concentrations these heavy metals can cause serious health risks, many of them leading to irreversible damage and sometimes death. Children are particularly susceptible to heavy metal illnesses as are pregnant women. In many cases the symptoms from exposure do not show up until years after initial contact. There is a definite cumulative effect with some of the metals. The body does not release them they just build up over time.
Therefore, it is imperative that the Environmental Assessment process on the proposed Ajax Mine demand the baseline data on all heavy metals that could potentially be released here. What are the current levels? We have already had mines operating in the vicinity (although none within the city limits and only 1.5 kms. from the nearest school!) over the years.
Has there already been a release of such metals into the Kamloops ecosystem? An assay report from New Gold Inc. (a much smaller mining operation than Ajax and further removed from the community) shows the presence of mercury and arsenic. Are the levels acceptable or dangerous to our health? When added to what might be coming with Ajax production do we have a health risk? The baseline information must be gathered before anyone could think about approving this mine.
Up until now KGHM has refused to release any assay results. Assay materials must be taken from more than one venue of a site to be scientifically valid. The public deserves this information and should be demanding it.
I am a former resident of Kamloops and still have family living here, I have hiked, biked and cross-country skied in the area of the proposed mine site. As an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Michigan, I was personally and professionally shocked to learn this information was not available to Kamloops citizens. Why aren’t the politicians in the city raising their voices?
Your children and healthy community are worth more than the short term production of gold and copper for a Polish company. Shout out for the studies and the answers!
“You can’t find what you are not looking for.” (From The Hole Story 2011.)