Thompson Rivers University's Clocktower auditorium could have felt like a hostile environment for anyone in support of the Ajax mining proposal Sunday afternoon during an open forum hosted by the faculty association's human-rights committee.
Indeed, the lone person to speak favourably of the gold-and-copper project, TRU economics professor Shahriar Hasan, half-jokingly said he regretted it after hearing the packed room's fierce opposition.
Derek Cook, forum organizer and TRU professor of philosophy and politics, began by introducing those speakers who contacted him in advance for a moment on the floor.
Among them were Stop Ajax and its affiliate the Kamloops Area Preservation Association, environmentalist Bronwyn Scott, a TRU biologist, the Raging Grannies and a "rabble-rouser" from the Kamloops Voters Society.
No one from Ajax showed up, which Cook previously suggested may be unwise.
"If either failed to show, people might think that that side had something to hide," he said.
As it was, the crowd did a lot of cheering.
It cheered for Kamloops Coun. Donovan Cavers and his well-established opposition to the proposal by multinational corporation KGHM based on environmental impact and proximity to residential neighbourhoods.
"I'm going to start calling it the Aberdeen mining project to bring that perspective to the wider community," he said.
Hasan followed the crowd-pleaser by explaining that he agreed to speak only two days prior and only at the behest of his colleague Cook.
"Now I'm debating whether I should talk at all," he chuckled along with the audience.
Hasan said he lives in Aberdeen and has a young daughter going to Aberdeen elementary so "if what you guys are saying is true" he has concerns.
But he said he would make his case based solely on financial considerations.
He began by providing a gloomy economic analysis of the future of Kamloops, saying Statistics Canada research ranked it the lowest population growth in the province for 11 years.
At this rate, he said, the younger demographic will soon dissipate to unhealthy levels.
Another strike against Kamloops is its reliance on government-funded jobs with Interior Health as the City's largest employer, followed by the Kamloops-Thompson School District. The third largest employer is TRU, which is significantly publicly funded.
KGHM's estimates of 750 jobs during mine construction and 490 jobs during operation are not enough to provide the lone solution, he said, but it should help stave off the worst of the financial blow.
He also explained an economic theorem whereby a negative impact on one's surroundings can be settled through financial compensation.
"If what you say is true, the impact on our air quality, our water quality and so on, if it's true, they would be invading our 'space,' " he said.
But there's a hitch.
"Whether it's my space or they're space is not clearly defined, that's the problem."
And that's up to government to determine, he said.
He summed up by saying that when there's gold in someone's backyard, often it's not a case of whether it's mined but when.
Although respectful toward the jittery professor, members of the audience didn't hide their disdain for the project.
They cheered to one man's suggestions that there is no amount of money to compensate for the mine's anticipated damage.
They cheered to a real estate developer's suggestion the Ajax solution to local economic issues is a short term gain when considering the loss of land to the future of his industry.
Cavers added that 60 per cent of the city's future development is slotted for the affected area.
They cheered when another audience member wondered if KGHM's job estimates will be outsourced to people outside Kamloops.
In short, the audience's rejection of the plan dominated the forum.
Cavers said he believes a citizen satisfaction telephone survey underway will show Ajax as uppermost in people's minds. But he balked at the notion of holding a referendum, saying it wouldn't be binding.
"And people are of two minds about that," he said. "KGHM has a lot of money and could potentially win it if they throw enough money at it."