At lunchtime today, a rally will demand the Ajax project be shut down before the first ore leaves the ground. For mine opponents, the call to action is a gamble.
A big turnout could energize the Stop Ajax forces and finally start building momentum.
But if the rally flops, it would look as though opposition is losing whatever steam it had.
The plan is to gather in front of TRU’s Campus Activity Centre and get some juice into what has so far amounted to a bland public profile by those against Ajax.
Two years ago, I made a prediction: “Kamloops is on the brink of the biggest environmental war this community has ever seen. When — which is more likely than if — it breaks out, it will ally the cutoffs-and-sandals enviros with homeowners and everyday activists against the Big Corporation.”
It hasn’t happened.
There have been some forums, letters, videos, a model, a farmers market booth and a website but pretty much no street presence. When the Aboriginal Cogeneration Corp. incinerator was on the books in 2009-10, there were marches, placards, lots of indignation — and a big protest at the same place as today’s rally.
An incinerator with a footprint not much bigger than your house galvanized such strong opposition that the plan was abandoned. Yet opposition to an open-pit mine several times the size of McArthur Island has had the feel of after-dinner conversation.
Depending on who you talk to, this is either by design — as in, taking a calm, rational approach instead of stirring things up — or simply because it’s tough to get people off their couches.
Up until late Tuesday, it was questionable whether the rally would go ahead, but after the number saying they’d attend hit 100, the green light was flashed.
“It’s difficult to get people out there,” one organizer told me. “It’s all ad lib.”
At this writing, the details were still being fleshed out, but there will be a couple of speeches, probably some placards, and then the crowd might move inside the CAC rotunda and do some milling.
Upstairs, KGHM Ajax will be preparing to open its fourth “community information session” in four days.
I attended half the Monday and Tuesday sessions, and there was a definite dearth of indignation despite the presence of quite a few opponents.
Attendance was modest, though the room brimmed with technical jargon. About 60 people attended the first night, maybe 40 the following day.
According to Yves Lacasse, they’re intended to be a start, only a start, on the “open mike” sessions he promised after he took the job as KGHM Ajax’s external affairs manager early this year.
Though a couple of security guys have been posted outside this week’s sessions, Lacasse doesn’t intend to beef up their numbers this afternoon.
The rally, he expects, will be “peaceful,” and if the critics want to join the company’s input session afterward, that’s OK. “Let them pack the room.”
On that point, at least, both sides are agreed — opponents, too, want a “peaceful rally.”
Still, it’s a risk, especially for the Kamloops Area Preservation Association. A small turnout at the 12:30 muster would be a blow to the anti cause.
It’s a gamble they’ve decided to take.