B.C. Rejects Ajax Mine – Groups Urge Governments to Learn Lessons and Change Laws

MiningWatch Canada

While celebrating B.C.’s December 14 decision to reject the risky and ill-considered Ajax open pit mine proposal on the outskirts of Kamloops and on Stk’emlupsemc te Secwépemc Nation (SSN) ancestral lands, MiningWatch Canada joins local, provincial, and national groups in urging both B.C. and Canada to learn some hard lessons from this and other cases in overhauling of environmental and mining laws to restore public trust and to ensure adequate protection of affected communities and their environment.

“B.C.’s decision to reject this destructive massive open pit mine on the doorstep of a major populated area and on First Nations’ sacred lands was the right decision that we should all be celebrating. But the hard, sweat-and-tears six-year process that it took to reach that decision was just wrong on so many levels. Much harm could have been avoided from the get-go with proper laws and processes in place,” states Ugo Lapointe, Canada Program Coordinator for MiningWatch Canada.

Both B.C. and Canada are under increasing pressure to reform their flawed and inadequate environmental assessment processes.

• The new B.C. government has announced that it will review its environmental assessment process, though it is also under pressure to reform all of its mining-related laws and regulations, especially since the 2014 Mount Polley mine waste disaster. A number of groups and First Nations have supported a pre-election call for reform of B.C.'s "19th century" mining laws.

• The federal government appointed an expert panel to review its environmental assessment processes, which reported early in 2017, and new legislation is expected to be introduced in January 2018.

MiningWatch and many other groups and experts are looking for those reviews to include effective recognition of Indigenous rights, knowledge, laws and authority during the review process, including the right to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC), as enshrined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Said Lapointe, “The SSN-led process should serve as an example here.”

The mining watchdog is also calling for meaningful public involvement earlier in the process, recognition of land use priorities and planning processes, and clear criteria for sustainability-based decision-making. MiningWatch spokesperson Jamie Kneen said, “Environmental reviews need to apply a more holistic ‘sustainability test,’ with clearer long-term goals, in place of the existing and much-limited ‘adverse environmental effects standard’ that governments use to simplistically 'balance' against short-sighted economic returns.”

Both B.C.’s and Canada’s current processes are failing. Kneen commented, “The B.C. process has led to travesties such as provincial approval for Taseko's ‘Prosperity’ mine project in Tŝilhqot’in territory, against the opposition of the Tŝilhqot’in National Government, and rejected not once but twice by federal environmental reviews.” Added Lapointe, “Canada’s process recently lead to the approval of the massive Sisson mine project in the hart of the Nashwaak watershed in New Brunswick, despite clear, fundamental flaws in the financial and environmental viability of the project, and despite clear opposition from all five First Nations most directly affected by the project.”

For more information:

  • Ugo Lapointe, MiningWatch Canada, c.514-708-0134
  • Jamie Kneen, MiningWatch Canada, c.613-761-2273