Friday January 30, 2015

The elephant in the room on Ajax mine issue

In my conversations with people regarding the Ajax Mine, regardless of whether they are for or against, it is clear that no one is against all mining. It's what we do as Canadians across the country.

Sometimes it's done well and sometimes it isn't. However, that's not the point for Kamloops. Here the issue is clearly based on the question “do you locate a very large open pit operation of 10 sq. miles within a city boundary and on top of a substantial urban population of 90,000?”

Those who are for the Ajax Mine use as their overriding justification the 300 or so jobs the mine will create. Those who are against often among other things site the degradation of our environment and compromised health issues arising. There is an “elephant in the room' that lurks behind the conversations for or against.

Proponents of the mine see it as a “zero sum game.” It’s as if everything about Kamloops will stay the same except there will be 300 more jobs.  However, no one is seriously raising the question "How many jobs will disappear?"

Will our university population of 7,500 local and international students stay the same in the face our new “mining town” brand? Will the best faculty and administrators choose Kamloops? We compete against many other post secondary institutions across the province and community lifestyle is a significant consideration for students and faculty alike.

Will the “tournament capital” with its exceptionally developed infrastructure throughout the city still be as attractive for large groups of athletes and their families? Organizers of national and provincial events may give pause to their choice when faced with the new Kamloops and its air quality issues.

Retirees, whose location choices for their senior years have much to do with lifestyle issues and available services, often bring substantial expertise and financial resources to a community. The mine will definitely discourage people choosing to move here to retire or stay after they retire.

I'm sure the conversation among health care professionals is whether Kamloops will remain an attractive place to practice and raise their families. We saw what happened when physicians raised their significant concern about the ACC incinerator proposal.

Kamloops, by virtue of its central location in the province has attracted business entrepreneurs and leaders. They, too, look at a variety of factors when making business decisions to locate in a community and the “mining town” brand that will dominate Kamloops will influence their decision for better or worse.

The Kamloops area has developed over the years into a destination location for lifestyle, climate, tournaments, regional fishing lakes, Sun Peaks, large bodies of water for boating and holidays and cultural and sporting events. Kamloops has come to be seen as much more than railways and a pulp mill.

You can be sure that the location of one of the largest open pit copper mine in the country on our doorstep will have a lasting impact on all aspects of our community. It's the law of unintended consequences.

I encourage the citizens of Kamloops to consider the “elephant in the room.” If the mine goes in, how many jobs will disappear, not all at once but over time?'



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