Federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq is now emphatically aware of Kamloops residents’ concerns about a proposed mine on the edge of town.
Mayor Peter Milobar said in a phone interview from Ottawa Thursday he and Kamloops MP Cathy McLeod spent 45 minutes with the minister talking about the mine and the community’s worries.
“I think she’s getting a handle on just how diverse a group has expressed concerns,” he said.
Milobar also made a pitch for a federal panel review of the project — a request that was rejected by Aglukkaq’s predecessor, Peter Kent, in January 2012, after he came to Kamloops and toured the mine site.
“We talked about the panel review. Over the two years from when it was first requested to now, if that provides a higher level of comfort to people as to which process is being followed, there’s no harm in it,” said Milobar.
The open-pit copper and gold mine is being looked at through a federal-provincial comprehensive environmental assessment, but some critics have felt the federal panel review would provide a high standard of scrutiny.
Milobar said his meeting with Aglukkaq was focused on that request and on letting her know just how wide a range of citizens have worries about the project.
“The composition of people worried or opposed, that it’s not just one walk of life or ideology,” he said, adding he also mentioned the group of doctors who have voiced concern, the recent medical health officer letter and Steelworkers’ union president Richard Boyce, who came out this week against the mine after previously supporting it.
Milobar didn’t know when the minister would respond on the panel review request.
“It’s a case of looking at how their structure is and budgets, things like that,” he said.
McLeod didn’t know how long a response would take.
“She does have a lot of confidence in the province. I don’t think anyone would ever approve a project that would jeopardize the health and safety of the citizens,” she said.
“She heard Mayor Milobar’s request and took it under advisement. The most important piece of this meeting was to share how unique this application is in terms of its proximity to the city and express the concerns of the citizens.”
McLeod acknowledged the proposed mine has been divisive for the community and whatever process is followed, it has to be thorough enough to have the confidence of the community.
“Neither the province nor the federal government are going to approve something that has significant negative health impacts,” she said.
The minister had some knowledge of the project, but the face-to-face meeting gave Milobar a chance to impress upon her the uniqueness of the terrain and the specific complications involved, such as groundwater tables in Aberdeen, he said.
“It’s another step in the process. It’ll be some time before we see the actual paperwork in front of us, so good timing to look at it,” he said.