It’s been a tough week for KGHM/Ajax with a groundswell of opposition from seemingly unrelated parties flowing forth.
First there was the release of the Kamloops Voters Society’s non-scientific survey saying
57 per cent of respondents don’t support the development of the Ajax mine, while 37 per cent do.
Then Richard Boyce, president of the Steelworkers local at Highland Valley Copper, came out swinging, saying any economic benefits could not outweigh the damage it would cause, citing fears of jobs going to foreign workers, dust, noise and unalterable environmental impact.
He told those at Kamloops Rotary he spoke not only for himself but also his members, which I found surprising, figuring the miners would stand in solidarity with their gestating kin, but apparently it’s a view he has quietly expressed before.
The following day, he downplayed his role as spokesperson for the 1,000 union members on the issue, instead saying he was mostly speaking as a concerned citizen.
So which is it? He’s entitled to his opinion and draws a lot of respect in labour circles after his years of union leadership, but you’re either speaking on behalf of the group or not. Kind of like being a little pregnant.
Another curious element is that his union filed for divorce from the Kamloops and District Labour Council two years ago over the council’s early opposition to the proposed mine. He accused them then of taking a premature stance given the lack of information at the time.
How is that different from now, when we still have very little to go on in the way of meaningful details?
People should have the right to change their minds about important matters like a mine that would touch within city limits. But it’s unreasonable to leap to conclusions without the facts.
And then there’s the whole “if you’re not against it, you’re for it,” and vice versa.
It’s become a topic you don’t discuss in polite company, like abortion or religion. It’s a no-win; there’s the potential of being incorrectly labelled as pro or anti, even lambasted for being a fence sitter.
Of the opposition that’s emerged this week, some is new, some not.
Since its inception this spring, Kamloops Physicians for a Healthy Environment has raised concerns about what impacts the mine might have on health, suggested the environmental assessment process was inadequate and pushed for an independent health impact assessment from an outside agency.
So its leak of a former IH medical health officer’s criticism of Ajax is not surprising.
The timing of seemingly disparate groups lining up together in such a public way over a short span also calls into question whether opponents are working more closely than we know or whether this week’s firing line was sheer coincidence.
To be clear, I am still in the undecided group. I have the same concerns that others do, but also know the importance of 350 mining jobs can’t be downplayed.
I will make my decision on the best available facts, however. And at this point, we don’t have enough of them to make a thorough evaluation.
Tracy Gilchrist is editor of The Daily News (email@example.com)