A recent letter to the editor asked people to be guided by principles when it comes to judging the value of the Ajax mine to the community. That is a reasonable request by any standard. However, the real question raised by this notion is, by which principles should we be guided?
Well, here are a few we might consider.
Principle No. 1 — Jobs are the primary engines of the economy. Employment establishes demand which in turn stimulates economic activity and prosperity. So if Ajax gives us 285 full time direct jobs which means about 770 indirect and direct jobs, then that is good.
Principle No. 2 — Value-added output is better for the economy. For years B.C. governments have pushed for value-added to our resources as a means of expanding the economy. Why should we ship our raw lumber when we could build entire houses and sell those?
For years we had a company in Kamloops that did just that! Regrettably Canada loses close to 700,000 jobs each year because of the unwillingness to be concerned about value-added output.
In this case Ajax will ship raw copper material that would create 4,000 jobs if we were to do the processing here. The mayor of Cache Creek a few months ago wondered why we are not considering this principle.
Principle No. 3 — Multi-national corporations do not worry about or care for the domestic communities from which they extract their resources. John Kenneth Galbraith a well known economist declared that multi-national corporations are a power unto themselves and have little regard for local economies. This is well established in the mining industry where the Giant Mine in Yellowknife, similar to the proposed Ajax operation, left behind a $500-million clean-up of hundreds of thousands of tonnes of arsenic. The cost will be carried by the Canadian taxpayer.
Principle No. 4 — Canadian governments, supported by Canadian attitudes, will choose a path of least resistance when it comes to multi-national corporations. That means our local politicians will
favour the Polish-government-owned KGHM Ajax Mine.
So when we add up all the principles here’s what we get. We give away our natural resources in favour of 285 full time jobs and ignore the potential for 4,000 more jobs by letting the Canadian governments (municipal, provincial and federal) make up our minds for us.
And by the way, the mine will probably leave behind hundreds of thousands of tonnes of poisons in the settling ponds that our children will have to pay for. On the other hand if we had strategic-minded politicians anywhere on the horizon who insisted that the development is undertaken by Canadian corporations we would have a better deal. They would be held accountable for the pollution and residual poisons left behind. They would not be able to hide behind a foreign government and in the end, just close up shop and leave the mess to the local community.
But that is likely too much to expect from the leaders of our community. After all, it is easier to let someone else do the work and we can pick up whatever dregs might be left behind.
Look at the wonderful example of Sudbury, Ontario where a multi-national corporation took the raw nickel out of the ground and shipped it a thousand kilometres south to the U.S. for processing.
Sudbury gained 1,500 jobs and a barren landscape that was used to train astronauts for the moon landing while Huntington gained 10,000 jobs and all the technology. making Inco a world leader in nickel goods.
It would be wonderful if we followed sound principles in judging the Ajax Mine. That kind of thinking could produce tens of thousands of jobs in our region.
It would mean hard work and time to make it happen, but the raw resources are not going to spoil or rot in the ground, so we do have time. What we need is the will to stop Ajax and to opt for a better deal in the future, for the good people of the region.