Mining threat looms over Kamloops

(Editor: Imperial Metals, of Mount Polley infamy, is considering two mines in Clayoquot Sound. If they ever actually apply for a mine development permit, the clock begins ticking—local communities would have 6 months to participate in an Environmental Assessment process, which in BC has never refused a mine permit. Clayoquot Action invited Kamloops resident Dr. Ross Friedman to describe her experience with the EA process.)

KGHM Ajax Mining Inc. (a Polish-owned corporation) wants to dig a huge, noisy, dusty open-pit copper and gold mine near Kamloops, BC, a city of 90,000 people. The mine would be within 1.4 kilometres of the nearest residences, and within 2 kilometres from the nearest elementary school.

Furthermore, the proposed KGHM Ajax mine would be located on unceded lands of the Stk’emlupsemc te Secwepemc Nation (SSN), including Pípsell (Jacko Lake and surrounding area), a cultural keystone area with significant spiritual and historical importance to the SSN. The SSN have a sacred responsibility to protect and assert jurisdiction over their territory, and as such, made a landmark Declaration of Title on June 21, 2015 at Pípsell. The SSN is conducting its own assessment of the proposed Ajax Mine Project using its own laws and jurisdictional authority.

Environmental assessment: 5 years and counting
The pre-application phase of the BC Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) process began in February, 2011, and the threat of this hazard has been hanging over the heads of Kamloopsians and other community members ever since; that’s five years and counting, and while the EAO wants to be respectful of the SSN land claim, it seems to be largely ignoring the declaration.

The EA machine is chugging through the same stages as any EA, seemingly oblivious to fact that the proposed Ajax mine would not be in a remote area, but would instead be upwind and uphill of an active, populated city. In fact, the BC EAO’s electronic Project Information Centre describes the process as a “typical environmental assessment”.

However, if this assessment is typical, then residents in any community should be truly alarmed. Did you know that a mining company can request and be granted a “pause” at any time during the 180-day review under the comprehensive assessment, solely for the proponent’s benefit? KGHM asked for and was granted a cessation to the 180-day review of the mine’s impacts on Wednesday May 4, 2016, which is day 107 of the process in order to deal with the many, many concerns raised by the community. The process is simply in limbo, with KGHM being given an undetermined amount of time to respond to public submissions. The public is left wondering what is going on, and when the active threat will resume. There is also no indication that the public will get a chance to comment on the responses, for an additional comment period on the responses is not included in the “typical process”.

Community advisory group ignored
In a seeming attempt to mitigate community concerns, the BCEAO did modify its process to include the so-called “Community Advisory Group” (CAG) consisting of representatives from about 20 citizen groups (e.g., the Grasslands Conservation Council of BC). However, citizen reviews on the importance of the CAG are mixed: on one hand, it was useful to be able to form coalitions with others (mostly) sharing the same view, but on the other hand, many groups largely felt like they were co-opted into the process to give it legitimacy and apparent transparency while not accomplishing much of significance. More disconcerting is that the BCEAO has essentially ignored the CAG, not supporting the CAG’s call to have the company disclose assay data, for example; to date, KGHM has not shared any assay data that has been scientifically-validated as being representative of the local geochemistry.

It is essential to recognize that the EA process is flawed and underfunded, and that concerned community members must be diligent in monitoring the EA process at all times. The process will not protect you from resource development; it is designed to “get to yes”, no matter how neutral it appears. And certainly, monitoring and mitigation of any approved or permitted project becomes a whole new problem.

Parallel community assessment a must-do
Thus, it is critical that concerned community members (including local Indigenous communities and their leaders) band together and run a parallel assessment. Bring in heavyweight community members (professionals, politicians, Chiefs, respected businesspeople) to speak on your behalf. When it comes time for expert critiques, use CrowdFunding and other such fundraising endeavors (including grants) to hire your own experts. While these experts will likely be perceived as “biased”, the information they will dig up will likely be irrefutable. Fight the issue on the environmental, legal, and political front, and do not be afraid to speak up.

We believe our efforts in keeping the proposed mine at the forefront of Kamloops issues and in challenging the BCEAO process in all fronts has been instrumental in bringing real attention to the threat that is the proposed Ajax mine.

Dr. Ross Friedman is a full professor in the Dept. of Biological Sciences at Thompson Rivers University (TRU) in Kamloops, BC, a member of the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (London). She has been opposed to the mine from the moment she heard about it in 2011, and has been active in groups opposing the mine ever since (TRU Faculty Association, Kamloops Area Preservation Association, Kamloops Physicians for a Healthy Environment Society, to name a few). She made her first serious anti-Ajax splash in late 2011 when she angered a good many in the labour community by speaking out against the mine in her capacity as an executive member of the Kamloops and District Labour Council. Since that time, through her tireless advocacy (and by facing myriad personal attacks), many in the labour movement have come around to her view.

Tore Bongo presents Alexandra Morton petition to King of Norway

Alta reflections

The indigenous people of northern Europe are called Sami. They are known for herding reindeer on the tundra. What we learned while in Norway is that the coastal Sami culture centres on wild salmon, much like coastal Natives in what is now called British Columbia. These two species, with their predictable migration patterns, provided the protein on which a rich culture was founded—the Sami.

The Alta River in northern Norway is famous. The stretches downstream of Northern Europe’s biggest canyon teem with big salmon, and have been a mecca of sports fishing for many years. The reindeer herds also come to the banks of the headwaters to calve in the rich pastures.

A major dam on the Alta River?
Back in 1970, the Norwegian government announced plans to build a major hydroelectric dam on the Alta River. Questions about the reindeer, the wild salmon, or interference with Sami rights were not even considered. What became known as the Alta Controversy began as a conflict between the Sami and the Norwegian government. The Sami village of Masi was to be flooded, and people rightly feared extensive disruption of the environment. Eventually the resistance morphed into a People’s Movement which became a nationwide flashpoint for a growing awareness of the need to protect the environment and uphold indigenous rights. Continue reading

2016 Cermaq Millar Channel Farm

Mass die-off at Clayoquot farms

The call came in at the end of a busy day last week: ‘Cermaq is experiencing a mass die-off at two of their farms in Clayoquot Sound’. By early morning the next day we had assembled a volunteer boat driver and photographer, sourced a donated water taxi, and raised the funds to fuel the boat and hire a videographer complete with drone. We set off in anticipation.

The first farm we got to didn’t seem to have any unusual activity, other than the whole Herbert Inlet was a weird murky turquoise. An employee boated over to photograph us, and a polite exchange followed. ‘We’re not sure what this colour is’, he said. ‘We’ve been seeing it for six weeks—could be Chryso’ (shorthand for Chrysochromulina, a species of algae).

The second farm we reached was the Millar Channel farm, just kilometres north of the site evicted by Ahousaht First Nations, after it was occupied by the Yaakswiis Warriors last September. There was a hum of activity: workers tossing dead salmon into totes, which were lifted and dumped into semi-trailers designed to haul away animal remains. The tubes sucking the dead fish (morts) from the pens were getting plugged up with the sheer numbers, and divers were in the pens unplugging them. Continue reading


People vs pipelines

When I heard the call-out for Break Free 2016!—a global day of action against fossil fuels—I knew we had to go. The plan was to surround Kinder Morgan’s Westridge Marine Terminal in Burnaby, with marchers on land and ‘kayaktivists’ on the water.

Kayaking is the whole reason I am an activist—a 1990 circumnavigation of Vancouver Island shocked me into realizing how little old-growth forest was left, and that Clayoquot Sound is the Last Great Rainforest on Vancouver Island. This led to my involvement in organizing the Clayoquot Summer 1993 blockades—and the rest, as they say, is history. Continue reading


BC Auditor General slams mining

Auditor General Carol Bellringer issued a scathing report after completing a two-year audit of mining regulation in British Columbia, writing “Almost all of our expectations for a robust compliance and enforcement program were not met. The compliance and enforcement activities of both the Ministry of Energy and Mines, and the Ministry of Environment are not set up to protect the province from environmental risks.”

Bellringer’s report identified water contamination as the major risk to the environment from mining activities. This is especially critical in British Columbia, where water often supports populations of wild salmon. While government enforcement has been declining, the risk can only increase as lower grade ore bodies are mined, creating larger quantities of waste rock, which must be stored safely in perpetuity. Continue reading


Salmon farm slaughters 15 sea lions

Norwegian-owned Cermaq Canada conducted a marine mammal massacre at a Clayoquot Sound salmon farm last December. The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) recently released their Authorized Marine Mammal Control Activities data, showing that between October and December 2015, fifteen California Sea Lions were shot by Cermaq at their Binns Island salmon farm. The wildlife was threatening Cermaq’s open-net pen facility. Continue reading

cermaq demo in oslo norway

Tide change in Norway

On the final day in Oslo, the Wild Salmon Delegation met with Cermaq, the Norwegian company with 15 salmon farm sites in Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. We visited Cermaq to share with them the reasons why the Delegation had come to Norway; and to discuss our perspective on the similarities and differences between British Columbia and Norway, the emerging consensus that open-net salmon farming is a dinosaur technology, and the tide change unfolding daily in major Norwegian media. Continue reading

Screen Shot 2016-02-07 at 17.45.42

Mining harms wild salmon

The Wild Salmon Delegation came to Norway to campaign against Cermaq’s open-net pen feedlots in Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. But as the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations saying goes, hišukiš c̓aawaak—everything is connected.

Yesterday I found myself sitting inside an indigenous Sami lavvu (a teepee-like traditional dwelling) with Ahousaht First Nations citizen John Rampanen. Imagine our surprise to learn that the reindeer herder with us Continue reading

Oslo Love Locks Bridge

Wild salmon of Oslo

The magic begins once you’re underway. You can’t plan for it, but you can prepare. I know this from personal experience, having been on several overseas environmental delegations to Japan and Germany in years past. It is no different this time with the Wild Salmon Delegation to Norway. Continue reading

salmon banner edited

On to Norway!

Clayoquot Action will be travelling to Norway this January to put pressure on Norwegian salmon farming giant Cermaq. We’ll deliver a clear message: get your polluting fish farms out of the pristine waters of Clayoquot Sound!

The team: Bonny Glambeck & Dan Lewis from Clayoquot Action and John Rampanen from Ahousaht and Kelsemaht First Nations. You can help send us north of the Arctic Circle to Alta, to attend a wild salmon conference where we’ll meet with the President of the indigenous Sami Parliament and build alliances with the cutting edge of Norway’s wild salmon movement. Then on to Bergen, the global capital of salmon farming, to meet Norwegians working to get salmon farms out of Norway’s waters, and to the capital of Norway to deliver a petition from Alexandra Morton asking Norway to divest from dirty salmon farming companies. Continue reading