High levels of public interest in the proposed Ajax mine have resulted in new ways of operation for the provincial environmental assessment office.
A senior bureaucrat with B.C.'s environmental assessment office outlined the process Thursday that KGHM must follow to develop its proposed mine.
The project is now considered in the pre-application stage.
Scott Bailey, executive project director for the provincial environmental assessment office, said environmental concerns, at about one-third of all comments, are the No. 1 issue identified by the public.
The surprise was social concerns at nearly 21 per cent. Bailey said on a typical project that would be less than one per cent.
That's a result of the proximity of a city of 85,000 to the project, he acknowledged.
Socio-economic concerns about the impact of a major mine within city limits caused the office to hire an outside consultant to analyze KGHM's report on the issue.
Typically, it uses its own and government staff to analyze proponent studies.
"We've hired a socio-economic impact group to see what these guys (KGHM's consultant) are doing," Bailey said. "That's not common. We don't have that expertise."
The meeting Thursday at TRU's Clocktower Theatre was attended by about 150 people. It came after KGHM held corporate information sessions Tuesday and Wednesday evenings.
Those sessions were required by the provincial environmental assessment office, which Bailey said is unique. A community advisory group that meets with Bailey's agency is also new to the process, he said.
Many questions centred on the potential impacts of the copper-gold mine and whether they are able to be mitigated.
Bailey said some impacts are straightforward to measure and address. Water quality is one of them because it can be measured against existing standards.
But Bailey acknowledged it can be more difficult in other areas, including habitat.
"That is a little trickier," Bailey said. "You can do compensation and say 'we've taken X hectares and we'll buy land here.'
"But what's the right amount (of land) . . . and are these critters really going to move over there?"
Several people expressed frustration the people of the city are powerless to stop the mine.
"The people of this town should be able to say 'there's no bloody mine here because we don't want the impact on our lives,' " said mine opponent Tony Brummell.