L-R: Jocelyn Fraser

L-R: Jocelyn Fraser

Open house on environment

On Thursday, Sept. 27, the provincial Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) held an open house in Fort St. James.

On Thursday, Sept. 27, the provincial Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) held an open house in Fort St. James.

The open house at the College of New Caledonia, was to give the community the chance to ask questions of the EAO or Thompson Creek (owners of the Mount Milligan Mine) about the proposed amendments to the Mount Milligan Environmental Assessment Certificate (EAC) during the period for public comment, as the EAO reviews the requested amendment.

The full application was available for the public to read, and the proposed amendments were handed out by Thompson Creek.

A similar open house took place the Wednesday night in Mackenzie, and Tracy James of the EAO said the community of Mackenzie had similar questions and concerns to those so far expressed by Fort St. James, with the exception of the change of the ore load-out facility.

The ore load-out was originally proposed to be constructed in the industrial area north of Fort St. James. The proposed amendment would move the load-out to Mackenzie, where Mount Milligan hopes to negotiate a lease with Kemess Mine to use their load-out, which Kemess is not currently using.

While if Kemess did eventually need to use the load-out in the future, Mount Milligan would then build a load-out near the Kemess facility on adjacent property.

The proposed EA amendments also include a permanent 450-person camp on site at the mine, which would accommodate their entire operational workforce on site as well as have capacity for contractors, maintenance personnel and visitors or temporary employees.

The applicant Thompson Creek is arguing the changes are necessary from a business perspective in helping to recruit operations staff and keep costs down (in the case of the load-out).

“We believe that these two amendments do not undermine or materially alter the Environmental Assessment’s Office original conclusion that the project will not have significant adverse effects,” says the application.

The Fort St. James Chamber of Commerce, however, makes some points which disagree with this take on the amendments.

A letter of comment by the Chamber takes issue with both the proposed camp and the change of load-out location, with some strong points.

“The burden or cost of building this mine has had some positive business benefits to our community, but there is also a cost to this positive business spin off. These costs are heightened community stress, pedestrian safety concerns, a huge increase in heavy traffic, and significant wear and tear on our roadways. Some consequences of these costs are the increased heavy industrial traffic which are the municipality’s financial burden (local tax payer)of road use and repair in town, as well as, provincial costs related to the damage of Highway 27 and especially the North Rd. We were lead to believe that a benefit to the above mentioned costs would be a load out facility that would provide guaranteed jobs and spin-off revenues for the local community. It is grossly unfair to impose the burden of construction-related transport on the Fort St. James community and then route the product on a less-economical longer road system, verses the established, shorter and safer one to our town.”

The letter also points out what the Chamber considers contradictions in the amendment application, with the statement the Mackenize route is “nearly identical” in distance in the argument justifying the relocation of the load-out – while it is 8 km longer each way to Mackenzie – but then the driving time for the route is expected to be longer given the road geometry, which the Chamber points out is a 10 per cent increase in distance and 25 per cent increase in time. The Chamber argues this would create a larger environmental impact over the life of the mine.

The three-week long public comment period ends on Oct. 11, anyone wishing to comment can use the online form at: http://www.eao.gov.bc.ca, faxes can be sent to: 250-387-2208

Regular mail can be sent to:

Shelley Murphy

Environmental Assessment Office

PO Box 9426, Stn Prov Govt.

Victoria BC

V8W 9V1