British Columbia rejects KGHM’s proposed Ajax mine

VANCOUVER (Reuters) – British Columbia on Thursday said it would not issue an environmental certificate for KGHM Polska Miedz’s Ajax copper and gold mine in the province’s interior, saying the adverse effects of the controversial project would outweigh any benefit.

The province’s decision follows a seven-year joint review by provincial and federal regulators, which found that the project would have 53 residual and cumulative adverse effects, 21 of which were considered of moderate to high magnitude.

Canada’s environment minister Catherine McKenna separately recommended against the project, saying in a statement it was likely to cause “significant adverse environmental effects and cumulative effects to Indigenous heritage.”

A final federal decision on the project will come down to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet. No timeline was given for that decision.

Polish miner KGHM acquired the Ajax project, which would produce 109 million pounds of copper a year and 99,000 ounces of gold, as part of its 2011 takeover of Canada’s Quadra FNX.

The proposed mine is located some 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from the city of Kamloops, in central British Columbia, and is on the traditional territories of four Indigenous communities.

British Columbia said because the 1,700-hectare open pit mine would be so close to the city, and in particular an elementary school, it would present an “unacceptable risk.”

It also noted that the area was of “high importance” to local First Nation groups and its development would have a significant effect on their heritage and right to use the land for traditional purposes.

A spokeswoman for KGHM in Poland did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The company has said the mine would create 1,800 construction jobs and 500 full-time positions, along with significant tax benefits for the city and province.

(Reporting by Julie Gordon; Editing by Diane Craft and James Dalgleish)

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