Federal Environment Minister Peter Kent wants more information on the proposed Ajax gold and copper mine south of Kamloops and will see the site first hand in the new year.
Kamloops MP Cathy McLeod said in a phone interview from Ottawa the minister didn't say yes to a full federal review panel on the proposal as City council and the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board recently voted to request.
But he did show the interest and willingness to come to Kamloops, see the site and talk to local residents about it, she said.
He also asked that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and any other relevant federal ministries look at whether they have significant concerns about the mine.
"He wants to find out more information to see if there's something that might trigger the panel. But I think it's important that the comprehensive review is a good process and people need to know that," McLeod added.
McLeod, Mayor Peter Milobar, Senator Nancy Greene Raine and Ronaye Elliot, the area director for the Thompson-Nicola Regional District, met with Ken for half an hour Thursday morning in Ottawa to talk about a possible federal review panel of the mine project.
Kent was joined by some of his staff along with representatives from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.
McLeod said the most powerful part of the group's presentation to Kent was showing him the actual map of the mine area, including city boundaries and growth that has happened in the southwest.
For now, the comprehensive review is still the process being used to study the mine and its impact. But the federal panel review process could be triggered by findings as that proceeds, she said.
"What he's committed to is understanding this issue in a more fulsome way, which includes a site visit, which includes the community. And it also includes understanding from departments such as Fisheries to see if there are any significant concerns at this point or as it goes on, any concerns that get triggered," she said.
Kent's visit is not a common practice and is another indication of his interest, she said.
"I was very pleased with that commitment," she said.
"The federal panel review is still open. The minister has a much, much clearer understanding of our concerns."
Milobar could not be reached by phone for comment. In a press release he said: "After meeting with Minister Kent, I have every confidence that the Ajax file is receiving full scrutiny. I look forward to continuing to work with Environment Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans around next steps of this process."
The Kamloops contingent also nailed down a meeting with officials from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in Ottawa Friday.
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