In Coun. Arjun Singh's recent blog on www.yourkamloops.com in which he states his position on the proposed KGHM Ajax Mine, he appears to support the need to address compensation for adverse effects caused by the proposed mine.
The Daily News reports that Environment Minister Terry Lake and government lawyer Geoff Plant attended the national hearing on the Northern Gateway pipeline in Edmonton on Sept. 6. Mr. Lake is quoted as saying, "Our questions will focus around liability coverage, corporate structure and ensuring British Columbians won't be left holding any kind of bill if in fact there was an adverse event."
The B.C. government wished to cross-examine Enbridge to ensure that Enbridge does not escape any liability through a convoluted corporate structure.
I believe this issue is also directly relevant to the KGHM Ajax project. Since Mr. Lake feels so strongly that liability (and, by default, compensation) should be reviewed as part of the Northern Gateway environmental assessment, he should ensure that the same issues are a part of the KGHM Ajax environmental assessment process.
Development and operation of the proposed mine will inevitably cause significant adverse environmental, human health, livestock, wildlife and economic effects which may not be mitigated to an acceptable degree. This is a unique situation and demands a much higher standard of assessment than would be applied in a more remote location and the assessment process should include liability and compensation.
KGHM Ajax has refused to address liability or compensation for any adverse effects caused by the mine and considers it to be beyond the scope of the B.C. environmental assessment process.
The EAO negotiates the scope of the EA in consultation with the proponent and has the power under Section 11(1) (a) (b) of the BC Environmental Assessment Act to include compensation.
To date the BC Government appears to agree with KGHM Ajax since it has been silent on the compensation issue, which raises an important question; has the BC Government decided that compensation will be excluded from the EA, and if so, why?
Nowhere in the BC Environmental Assessment Act does it state that liability and compensation shall not be considered as part of the EA process. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act includes compensation in its definition of mitigation.
The very concept of mitigation is subject to interpretation at the political level, where the impact of adverse effects will be measured against the economic gain, primarily for the proponent.
If the BC government does not require the proponent to address liability and compensation as part of what Environment Minister Terry Lake has described as a "robust" and "vigorous" EA, will Kamloops City Council address the issue?
At the very least City council should exercise its responsibility to apply the precautionary principle and seek to protect its citizens by insisting that the B.C. government act to address this issue. Absent any provincial or municipal action on this matter, it will be left to individual property and business owners to fight a multi-billion dollar foreign corporation.
The obvious solution to all of the problems associated with the proposed Ajax mine is for the BC Government to refuse to approve a proposal that never should have been considered in the first instance. It is a mine too close to Kamloops.