Saturday, May 4, 2013

Ajax mine: potential impacts

Kamloops, British Columbia, is a great city. We enjoy plentiful sunshine here, an early spring, terrific sports facilities, and long views of sagebrush- and pine-dotted mountainsides. Kamloops is Canada's Tournament Capital and a tourist mecca, transportation hub, major health-care provider, university city, and business centre. It’s a good place to work, raise a family, and/or retire.

Sadly, this picture could change if the proposed KGHM Ajax mine goes in at the south end of Kamloops. How would this open-pit copper-gold mine affect our 85,000 residents?

1. We'd need to clean our streets, dust our computers, and wash our hair more often. Kamloops is already dusty thanks to our semi-desert environment. The Ajax mine would produce more dust, not all of which could be kept on site despite state-of-the-art technologies. Other open-pit mines don't manage to completely contain their dust. We couldn’t expect Ajax to be miraculously different.

2. If the mine goes ahead, Kamloopsians would cough more, wheeze more, and suffer more sinus headaches, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. That's because mine-generated dust, along with our existing dust, would worsen health problems such as asthma, sinusitis, bronchitis, emphysema, COPD, and heart disease. In vulnerable people like children and seniors, the dust could even cause such problems. Kamloops would be downwind of the mine, which means the southwest winds common here would blow mine-generated dust all over our city. The temperature inversions we often experience would trap the air near the surface, where we'd be forced to breathe it.

3. The blasting of rock at the mine would expose us to toxic heavy metals released in finely ground form. Such metals are hazardous to our health. For example, lead interferes with brain development, memory, and concentration. Cobalt is associated with asthma, pneumonia, and heart disease. We couldn’t depend on good mining practices to prevent such toxins from entering our air and finding their way into our water and soil. It happens elsewhere. We couldn’t expect Ajax to be miraculously different.

4. More Kamloopsians would develop cancer from breathing diesel fumes. Trucks and other machinery at the Ajax mine would use about 91,000 litres of diesel a day. Some of these fumes would escape into the air and blow through our city, no matter how much effort is put into containing them. As of June 2012, the World Health Organization ranked diesel fuels as a leading cause of cancer.

5. Those of us fortunate enough to have homes could stay indoors when the outdoor air quality worsened. The homeless and people working outdoors wouldn't necessarily have that opportunity.

6. In November 2012 a survey of local physicians showed that almost 70% wouldn't choose to live and work here if the Ajax mine were in place. Who could blame them for moving themselves and their families away from an increasingly unhealthy and unattractive environment?

7. Gardening would be less pleasant and successful with the mine on our doorstep. There'd be more dust on our plants and more toxins leaching into our soil and water. People who grow their own vegetables and fruits might hesitate to eat them.

8. Noise from the mine would interfere with people's sleep, relaxation, and concentration. There'd be 24-7 noise from trucks, conveyor belts, crushing and grinding facilities, and other equipment.

9. Pets would suffer from the noise. I'm acquainted with a dog who cowers in a closet when fireworks go off in Riverside Park several kilometers away. The daily blasting from Ajax would probably give Mallory a nervous breakdown.

10. Open-pit mining requires water for dust control and other purposes, lots of water. Some of this water would evaporate into the air, causing more fog and thicker fog than we have now. That means we'd enjoy fewer mountainside views. Increased fog would lead to more accidents on our highways and more delays at our airport.

11. If Kamloops were a dusty, noisy, foggy mining city, it wouldn’t attract as many athletes, tourists, university students, businesses, and new residents as it does now.

12. Turning on lights, plugging in an electric kettle, or running a fan might cost us more if the mine went in. KGHM says BC Hydro will subsidize it, which probably means rates for ordinary citizens and small businesses would rise. Hydro costs money and it has to come from somewhere.

13. The value of our homes would go down with the mine here. It happens elsewhere; for example, in Arizona copper towns.

If you're willing to take a stand on this issue, consider:


-Volunteering with one of the dozen-plus organizations who are working to keep this mine from damaging our environment, health, and quality of life. They include: Kamloops Moms for Clean Air, Kamloops Physicians for a Healthy Environment, Kamloops Area Preservation Association, Thompson Watershed Coalition, and Grasslands Conservation Council of BC.


-Starting a similar organization from your own perspective. Examples would include: a group presenting Aboriginal peoples' concerns, a senior citizens group, a faith-based group, a natural-health practitioners' group.


-Writing to politicians.


-Writing to media outlets.


-Praying. This issue warrants going right to the top.


Elma Schemenauer, author of 75 books published in Canada and the USA, editor of many more,,,





Elma Schemenauer, author of 75 books published in Canada and the USA, editor of many more,,,


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