Ajax opponents who think rejection of the Morrison mine project is a good omen may be disappointed.
Both Morrison and Ajax are copper properties, but after that there’s not much similarity.
In announcing their decision this week to turn down the 30,000-tonne-per-day project at the headwaters of the Skeena River, enviro minister Terry Lake and energy minister Rich Coleman listed among concerns a “genetically unique sockeye salmon population” and “long-term” environmental impact.
The EAO report, presented to the ministers for review a couple of weeks ago, also noted “opposition from Gitxsan and Gitanyow Nations” and “the strength of claim of (the) Lake Babine Nation.”
There is no such opposition to Ajax — instead, discussions with local bands have centered on who gets the biggest slice of the pie. (The Tk’emlups and Skeetchestn Bands already stand to split $2.5 million a year in royalties from the New Gold mine.) As Skeetchestn chief Rick Deneault said last year in brushing off concerns about the closeness of Ajax to the city, “It’s not like it’s right next door to somebody’s house.”
As a side note, while First Nations closest to the Morrison project opposed it, the Village of Granisle and the Nechako school district were all for it, and said so years ago. No waiting around till “all the reports are in” for them. The school district offered training programs for workers and the town council asked eagerly if it would need “a new subdivision to accommodate growth in population?”
As for fish, worries about Jacko Lake are a big part of the package of environmental concerns about the KGHM plan. But I doubt sport fishing in one small recreational lake will carry as much weight as the future of salmon stocks on a 15-mile lake at the headwaters of a major river.
Should there be hope Morrison might set a trend, consider that only two B.C. projects have been turned down during environmental review in the past 20 years, and one of them wasn’t a mine — it was the Ashcroft Ranch landfill project.
What about the impact of Ajax on local lifestyle? Will the review criterion of “social and economic effects” be a serious factor? Granisle isn’t nearly as close to the Morrison property as Ajax is to Kamloops, but the EAO concluded there would be “no significant adverse effects” in that respect. Pacific Booker Minerals Inc., the proponent, would be required to cover that off by hiring a community PR person and sponsoring a job fair in Granisle.
Technically, the Morrison mine project may be wounded, but it’s not dead. In Lake’s letter breaking the news to Pacific Booker Minerals, he wrote, “We wish to emphasize that our decision relates to the project as proposed, and we wish to note that the environmental assessment allows Pacific Booker Minerals Inc. to submit another proposal based on a new project design in the future, should you wish to do so.”
Pacific Booker director Eric Tornquist issued a terse three-paragraph response Monday that noted, “The federal approval process is ongoing and the Federal Environmental Assessment agency will make their decision independently.”
In other words, it ain’t over.