Citizens demand more say
"We have learned that current legislation allows the interests of mining companies to override the needs and aspirations of municipalities, regional districts and First Nations..."
Concerned Kamloops residents sent a letter to City Council urging action on the proposed Ajax Mine, a controversial open-pit mine within city limits. The letter urges changes to the Mineral Tenure Act that would give local and First Nations government more say over development projects in their territories ahead of the Union of BC Municipalities meeting this fall.
Below, the text of the letter:
Re: UBCM Resolution B80
We are sending this letter to your City Council on behalf of many Kamloops citizens who are opposed to development of an open-pit copper and gold mine immediately adjacent to, and partly within, our city’s boundaries – the Ajax Mine.
We have learned that current legislation allows the interests of mining companies to override the needs and aspirations of municipalities, regional districts and First Nations. The Mineral Tenure Act gives preferential treatment to the mining sector over other development opportunities such as renewable resources, agriculture, and tourism. Because of the well-documented health and environmental hazards associated with open pit mining, we believe it is critical for all BC residents to be aware of this issue. What has happened to Kamloops can happen anywhere in BC.
This spring, the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities voted to support a resolution advanced by Tofino Mayor Josie Osborne calling on the Provincial Government to modernize the Mineral Tenure Act. This resolution will be put before the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) this fall, and we believe it is extremely important that local governments and First Nations across BC support efforts to enshrine their right to refuse proposals that threaten the well-being of their citizens or local eco-systems.
Making changes to the Mineral Tenure Act is consistent with the growing awareness that the health of local populations must be considered in the project review process. A motion was passed at the Health Officer Council, April 2013 (Resolution 138.2): "...a Health Impact Assessment must be considered for all reviewable projects under the BC Environmental Assessment Act, and if appropriate a complete HIA be performed and externally funded as part of the project review process..."
We are contacting city councils to strongly urge delegates attending the UBCM convention to support the following resolution calling on the Provincial Government to modernize the Mineral Tenure Act:
MINERAL TENURE ACT MODERNIZATION (Tofino)
WHEREAS British Columbia’s Mineral Tenure Act has remained substantially unchanged since the 1800’s and is not suited to our modern day land base and the demands of legitimate competing interests and values; the present Mineral Tenure Act gives no weight to other economic activities, current or future, in areas affected by mining claims including tourism, forestry and farming.
AND WHEREAS local governments and First Nations deserve greater latitude to shape their economic development paths and protect the full range of their residents’ interests; a modern Mineral Tenure Act could ensure adequate regional planning would take place, recognizing vital water, agricultural and other resources on which all communities depend;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Union of BC Municipalities request that the Province of British Columbia undertake a broad-based public engagement process similar to that being used to amend BC’s Water Act and fairly engage First Nations and local governments to determine how best to modernize the Mineral Tenure Act and related legislation in a way that ensures the full range of interests – including social, cultural, ecological and economic – are given fair consideration on BC’s land base.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter.
Anne Neave, for all members of an e-mail network of concerned citizens
John Schleiermacher, Kamloops Area Preservation Association
Gina Morris, Kamloops Moms for Clean Air
Dr. Jill Calder, Kamloops Physicians for a Healthy Environment
Dr. Twila Burgmann, Kamloops Physicians for a Healthy Environment
Video on Ajax Mine location by Bill Hadgkiss