An overwhelming majority of city residents favours mining but that support drops to a minority on the question of the Ajax mine proposal, according to an online survey by the non-aligned Kamloops Voters Society.
Results released at the society’s annual general meeting on Sunday indicate significant opposition to the open-pit mine.
A total of 57 per cent of respondents said no, they do not support the mine development, while 37 per cent said they support it, representing a spread of almost 20 per cent.
In contrast, 89 per cent said they support mining in B.C. Only seven per cent don’t.
“I think, overall, what people are saying is that they don’t mind mining as long as it’s not close to town,” Don Barz, a society member, commented at the meeting.
“Or within city boundaries,” piped another member.
The survey also indicates that residents want some say in the decision whether to allow the mine to proceed. Though it’s wishful thinking — even City council doesn’t have a say — 63 per cent feel there should be a referendum compared to 28 per cent who don’t feel it’s warranted.
The survey was posted on the society’s website from Oct. 7 to 14 and drew 2,862 submissions, but 118 were eliminated. Multiple responses from single IP (Internet provider) addresses were weeded out as spoiled responses in an effort to enhance the validity of the non-scientific survey.
Randy Sunderman said the society is pleased with the level of response, which was greater than expected. It intends to further analyze the results to learn more, including how neighbourhoods’ concerns register.
Predictably, Aberdeen residents have different opinions than those in Westsyde. On the other hand, Aberdeen represents 22 per cent of respondents, the largest component and more than double that of the next largest, upper Sahali.
“I can tell you that there’s some strong divergence of opinion depending on where you live in the city,” Sunderman said before outlining percentage responses to 17 questions.
In the mine’s favour, about 65 per cent agree or strongly agree that the development will have a positive impact on related businesses supplying goods and services. Close to 48 per cent feel it will benefit other industrial operations. The same amount feel the mine will have a net positive impact on employment.
Opinions swing against the mine when it comes to tourism impact — 50 per cent strongly disagree with the assertion that it will be positive.
Effect on the image of the Tournament Capital? Ditto — 51 per cent strongly disagree that it would be positive. A majority — 52 per cent — disagree or strongly disagree that it would help attract international TRU students. Fifty-seven per cent don’t believe it will help attract health-care professionals to Kamloops.
In terms of environmental concerns, 58 per cent agree or strongly agree that dust will adversely affect their neighbourhoods. About 45 per cent are concerned about noise impacts, although 39 per cent disagree or strongly disagree.
While about 30 per cent disagree or strongly disagree that the mine will affect slope stability in Aberdeen, 46 per cent believe it will.
Society president Brad Harrison stressed that the society toes a neutral line on issues of civic importance.
“We focus on process and trying not to take sides on anything,” he said.
He said the variability in the responses is an encouraging indicator that the survey reached a wide sampling of the population. Harrison also believes the survey shows that voters need more information on the proposal.
“There’s very little hard data about this project,” said Barz, who serves on the Stop Ajax Mine executive. “The proponent’s refusing to release assay data, even though they’ve got it.”
Coun. Arjun Singh, who attended the meeting along with about 20 members, said he remains skeptical of the online polling method.
“But I think there’s some good data there that can be chewed over,” he said. “It’s not scientific, but certainly there’s a very large group of people responding and that could form a part of what the environmental assessment office considers.”