Running a full-scale test blast at KGHM-Ajax would be contrary to 40 years of mining practice worldwide, a consultant told a public hearing Monday.
“My advice to them is you always start small,” said Frank Chiappetta, an explosives application engineer for a Pennsylvania company hired two weeks ago to consult on the project.
“In my 40 years I don’t know anyone who starts with huge shots (mining blasts).”
Chiappetta was one of six experts brought in by the company to outline studies of key public concern, including noise and blasting, air quality and human health.
His response came to a question from Ruth Madsen, a mine opponent.
Kamloops Area Preservation Association has asked for a full-scale test blast so city residents can learn firsthand any vibrations or noise from blasting at the proposed open-pit copper mine immediately south of the city.
But Chiappetta said the industry standard would be to start operation with small blasts and measure vibration with instruments set between the mine and subdivisions in Pineview Valley and Aberdeen. It can then scale blasts to ensure there are no effects.
While consultants weren’t expected to provide answers — the company says those will come with its application to the provincial and federal governments expected next year — Chiappetta said mines have operated far closer than the 1.3-kilometers that any city subdivision will ever be to the mine.
Ajax mine “is not a technical challenge,” Chiappetta said. “We usually get called in when blasting is very close.”
“Very close,” Chiappetta said, includes housing with 300 metres of mine blasting.
“To us you have 1.3 to two kilometers and it’s a good buffer,” he said. “We have great capability to control things.”
Contrary to an opinion contained in a report from a local engineering firm, Chiappetta said it is impossible for a mine blast to create a window-breaking sonic boom.
The meeting at the university’s Grand Hall was the first of four scheduled this week. While Ajax meetings have typically been bustling and sometimes rowdy, Monday’s was a lightly attended and polite affair.
About 70 people were at the meeting in a room prepared for as many as 250. Two security guards were stationed outside the room in preparation, however.
Following presentations from Chiappetta and another noise expert, one of the attendees, Paula Pick, asked a simple question: “To bring it down to the layperson’s level, if you’re sleeping in Aberdeen or Pineview Valley…is your sleep going to be disturbed?”
The answer, of course, is it depends — on factors including wind, weather and even the person.
“I sleep through everything,” said engineer Johathan Chui. “My wife wakes up at the slightest sound.”
Scientists did say studies will specifically look at weather inversions, which can cause noise to travel greater distances.
One of the most persistent questioners was Robert Schemenauer, a retired scientist living in Kamloops. He questioned aspects of studies and said in an interview he sees a lack of scientific rigour in some.
On water, for example, “they’re not looking at all aspects, the expert on fog said in an interview.
“It’s not just rain and snow. It’s fog as well. We’ve known that for 30 or 40 years.”
A repeat of Monday’s presentation open the public is set for Tuesday at 1 p.m.