We’re not sure how innovative KGHM-Ajax is when it comes to mining. But there seems to be no end to thinking up ways of telling us “I don’t know.”
The latest effort comes with a series of four-hour information sessions at the cavernous TRU Grand Hall.
If the public relations people at KGHM expected to fill the space, they were clearly mistaken — if the first session is anything to go by. The prospect of sitting for hours on end while experts display slideshows and recite dry facts and figures somehow didn’t capture the imagination of more than a handful of Kamloops residents.
Still, it’s an improvement over the tightly controlled sessions of the past where ordinary citizens were made to jump through hoops and behave in a prescribed manner. That was not a good way to build trust.
The problem is that no matter how you spin it, KGHM’s experts simply don’t know the answers to many of the concerns that have been raised. And it would be unscientific, not to mention irresponsible, of them to speculate.
The absurdity of the situation was summed up when an attendee at the first session asked whether a blast from the mine would be loud enough to wake up someone who was sleeping.
The answer? It depends.
“I sleep through everything,” said engineer Jonathan Chui. “My wife wakes up at the slightest sound.”
Surely, no one expects any decisions to be made on the basis of the sleeping habits of Mr. Chui and his wife.
Yet that seems to be the corner KGHM is painting itself into. It is succumbing to public pressure to come up with some kind of answers, but in doing so, is providing answers that — without more research — are not very helpful.
It’s unfortunate that this project has been reduced to a public relations exercise when it should really be about science. It’s either environmentally sound or it isn’t. You can argue that the process for making that determination is not as rigorous as it should be, but that’s not something KGHM controls.
As far as we can tell, they are playing by the rules. At best, citizens can hold their feet to the fire to ensure they are doing this to the best of their ability.
These public relations exercises may be a way of assuring residents that KGHM is indeed striving to be environmentally responsible.
But if the decision on the Ajax proposal is based on science — and we sincerely hope it is — then these efforts at winning hearts and minds may turn out to be little more than a distraction.
We Say editorials represent the viewpoint of The Daily News and are written by publisher Tim Shoults, city editor Tracy Gilchrist, or associate news editors Dan Spark and Mark Rogers.