A major city mining entrepreneur is adding his voice to those who say the proposed Ajax mine is too close to Kamloops, while others caution it’s too early judge the proposal.
Ed Collett, who owns international mining equipment supplier Intequip and opened the city’s first commercial vineyard, said an open-pit mine immediately beside a city of 85,000 is a poor location.
“I have to agree with Richard Boyce (Steelworkers mine local president), it’s way too close to the city,” Collett said.
“There’s other ore deposits in B.C. We don’t have to destroy pristine areas that will never return.”
Boyce, who heads the union representing workers at Highland Valley Copper, announced at a public meeting this week that he opposes plans by KGHM-Ajax to reopen and expand the historic Ajax pit immediately south of Kamloops.
But United Steelworkers District 3 released a statement later in the week saying it does not join with Boyce. The union urged patience on the mine review process.
“Any time a new mine is proposed, it undergoes a process of environmental review,” the union said in a statement. “That process is currently underway with respect to the Ajax proposal.”
Kamloops Chamber of Commerce president Bob Dieno said business is taking a wait-and-see attitude.
“Our position is if the environmental reviews come back positive, we’ll support Ajax going in; it would be good for business,” Dieno said. “If they come back not in favour — we all live here, too.”
Collett has spent 30 years in the business, starting as a tire supplier and expanding into mining equipment supply worldwide.
He estimated he’s toured more than 100 mine sites around the world. Collett also said mining practices have improved immeasurably in the past few decades.
But he said the threat to Jacko Lake, loss of grasslands, threat to air quality and permanent scarring of the city landscape can’t be understated.
Jutta Jealouse, a mining entrepreneur who sold her stake in a city assay lab but remains in the consulting business, said it’s too early for Collett, Boyce or others to have an opinion on Ajax.
She urged residents to wait for results of the environmental assessment process. The company has also stated many questions will be answered in its application to the provincial and federal governments.
“This area has been mined so long. I’m surprised there’s a reaction . . . . As a layman, you shouldn’t have an opinion yet,” Jealouse said. “That’s why environmental standards are there.”
But Collett said he knows enough about the proposal and isn’t fearful of pushback in the mining industry where he makes his living.
“People have to understand what mining does for the globe. It’s a huge economic boost for any city. But people have to look at the pros and cons. Looking at those, I have to say ‘no.’ ”
Despite his feelings, Collett said he doesn’t feel the mine is a threat to Harper’s Trail winery, which he opened along with his wife Vicki, nor to tourism in Kamloops in general.