By Carol Linnitt.
The proposed Ajax mine, a 1,700-hectare open-pit gold and copper mine near Kamloops, B.C., was denied a provincial environmental certificate from the B.C. government Thursday. Environment Minister George Heyman and Minister of Energy and Mines, Michelle Mungall, found the benefits of the 18-year project, which has received vocal opposition from local communities and First Nations, do not outweigh its significant, adverse effects.
Jacinda Mack from the Secwepemc and Nuxalk nations and coordinator for First Nations Women Advocating for Responsible Mining, said the indigenous-informed environmental assessment championed by the SSN is an important example for B.C. to follow. “It’s important to follow Indigenous leadership and reconciliation with land and peoples,” Mack told DeSmog Canada. “The SSN assessment was innovative and inclusive and was supported by a lot of people in Kamloops who did not support the Ajax mine going ahead.”
Mack said the indigenous-led assessment should be used as a model to improve both the federal and provincial environmental assessment processes going forward.
Nikki Skuce, director of Northern Confluence, agreed, saying the final B.C. assessment came to many of the same conclusions as the SSN report. “Today’s decision provides some hope that the commitment to revitalizing B.C.’s Environmental Assessment Act will incorporate UNDRIP, sustainability principles and community input,” Skuce told DeSmog Canada.
…Speaking with reporters today, Heyman said it’s not government’s desire to reject a project seven years into the assessment process. “Obviously we want a new environmental assessment process that respects the legal rights of First Nations as well as our commitment to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Tsilhqot’in decision and the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” Heyman said.
He added it is imperative for government to enhance the public’s confidence in the process and “encourage proponents to work from the beginning with First Nations.