She’s not against mining and instead advocates responsible mining, says Utah activist Cherise Udell.
Udell and Dr. Brian Moench, founder of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, speak at Parkside Lounge at Interior Savings Centre on Sunday from 2-4 p.m.
They’ll talk about balancing mining interests with the well-being of urban populations in a presentation moderated by Daily News columnist Mel Rothenburger.
Founder of Utah Moms for Clean Air, Udell was invited to Kamloops to speak by Gina Morris, who recently started a similar group, Kamloops Moms for Clean Air.
Morris’ research indicated the western state and Kamloops both experience atmospheric inversions that can trap dust and other harmful pollutants. Utah has a statewide alert system that discourages vehicle use and open burning on problem days.
On red-alert days, Udell felt as though she were locking her daughters in a sealed room full of chain smokers.
“We have way too many mines in Utah,” Udell said. “We often have the worst air in the nation.”
Utah has a lengthy mining history dating back to the early 20th century. She started Moms for Clean Air five years ago to advance the cause of healthy air quality for children, who are most vulnerable along with the elderly and people with compromised health.
Yet Udell insists she is not against mining; her organization wants mines to operate in a socially responsible manner.
Two key issues to consider are mine location and a full accounting of the costs, she said. Mines should not be located in close proximity to urban populations. If mineral deposits are close to a city, “You kind of just have to write it off the list,” she said.
“The second problem is making sure that mines pay the true cost of doing business and stop externalizing so many costs out over the community. Basically, they’re treating our airshed like it was a free public sewer.”
In her opinion, the Ajax Mine proposed within municipal boundaries does not meet those criteria.
Should a community still choose to allow a nearby mine operation to proceed, it has to ensure the pollution is internalized. That means use of the best available technology to create the least impact possible, she said.
Yves Lacasse, external affairs manager with KGHM International, fielded some responses from the company to those concerns.
The mine’s proximity to the city is central to project design and operational plans, they noted.
“Many of our studies, which we continue to advance, surpass the normal criteria for studies required for projects located geographically further away from a community,” they wrote in an email reply.
The company also said that comprehensive studies it is undertaking will determine the methods used to monitor and mitigate effects. Those methods will form part of its permit application.
“As a proven, socially responsible operator of mines throughout the world, we are determined to follow those commitments we have made through that process.”