A local web user believes KGHM International hijacked Stop Ajax domain names in order to divert the public from a group opposed to the Ajax Mine proposal.
The company, alerted to the misleading domain links, immediately took down the sites and maintains that they were posted in 2011, prior to KGHM's involvement in the project.
"These actions do not represent KGHM International nor do they represent our respect for our neighbours and friends in the Kamloops community," the company commented in response to queries from Tyler Holm.
Holm subscribes to the Stop Ajax Facebook page, which is where he spotted the deceptive links to StopAjaxMine.org and StopAjaxMine.net a few days ago.
"These were recently erected because nobody had stumbled upon them up until that point," he said.
That doesn't mean they weren't on the web, only that links hadn't been posted on the Stop Ajax Facebook page until recently.
"The links took me, sure enough, to the their (KGHM) website, so I asked, 'What is this? What's going on?' It's domain hijacking."
Domain hijacking is not uncommon, Holm realizes. Companies and individuals do it to protect their interests, to deceive or simply to stage an underhanded stunt. Several years back, a local Tory backroom organizer working for MP Betty Hinton snapped up the domain name of Michael Crawford, who was a federal New Democrat candidate at the time.
"It actually happens a fair bit," Holm said. "Resource companies will target the domain name of nonprofit organizations and traffic will go the company page instead. It's not illegal, but any web designer, for sure, that's going to get them a bad name pretty quickly."
KGHM International was not aware of the situation and its web designer would not have taken the liberty of securing web domains, said Robin Bartlett, company spokeswoman.
Responding through its own website comment page, KGHM thanked Holm for pointing out the problem.
"We assume the intention, while misguided, was to offer people concerned about the Ajax project at that time with access to more information."
The company pointed to the Canadian Internet Registry, which indicates that www.stopajaxmine.ca, the original and authentic domain name, was registered in 2011 before KGHM International took over operation of the Ajax project.
Holm doesn't buy the company's explanation, though. The bogus sites had KGHM-Ajax Mining Corp. across the top banner, making the company's explanation "complete bunk," he said.
"They've been talking about how transparent they want to be and then they go and do something like this. It just seems like another trick they've pulled out of the bag."