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Wells contingent opposes mine layout plan

Group from Wells suggests different position for mining structures
Overview of the village of Wells. (Image by Friends of Responsible Economic Development in Wells)

Prominent members of the village of Wells have joined voices opposing the location of an in-town mining operation.

The citizens’ group known as Friends of Responsible Economic Development, or FRED (a play on village founder Fred Wells, a miner in the 1930s) said they are not opposed to Osisko Development Corp.’s proposed gold mine, only to the place the processing buildings are slated to be built.

FRED articulated these concerns in a news release issued on Oct. 2. It reads, in its entirety (edited only for grammar and Canadian Press publication style):

A provincial decision is imminent on a massive industrial gold mine complex proposed for Wells, B.C., (population 250) that would dominate the scenic entrance to the small mountain town, loom over half the community and funnel heavy industrial traffic through it, say concerned citizens. The worried residents are asking for design changes to minimize the significant impacts of the Cariboo Gold Project where a three-year environmental assessment process has just concluded.

“We are very much in favour of the economic advantage of mineral diversification,” explains Dave Jorgenson of the Wells Chamber of Commerce. “We value, and could really use the economic stimulus, but this is the visual equivalent of three Costco centres stacked on top of each other, the first thing you see as you enter the community.”

The complex and associated ore processing activity would also be just 200 metres away from a residential area.

“The ironic thing is, we have a story in Wells that goes against the grain of the usual ‘Big Mining Conglomerate Bulldozes Town’ story,” observed Judy Campbell, a founding councillor for the District and former CEO of Barkerville Historic Town. “In fact, an overwhelmingly large proportion of the community supports the mine – just not this proposal,” she says.

Wells, just six kilometres from one of B.C.’s major tourist attractions, Barkerville Historic Town & Park, has an early history of mining. However, since the late 1960s its economic mainstay has been tourism and the arts. Internationally known as the gateway to Barkerville and the Bowron Lakes canoe circuit, Wells attracts visitors for arts and music festivals, live theatre, and amazing outdoor recreation opportunities.

“People come here because they love the peace and quiet of the natural surroundings,” says Jennifer Lewis. “I relocated my sound studio here from Vancouver because of the near absence of human-made noise. It’s so unique and great for the soul.” Lewis is one of three District of Wells council members who oppose the proposed location of the gigantic processing (services) building. “Ridiculously, it’s located upwind of the entire town – a very poor choice when considering the health of a community.”

As another councillor and long-time homeowner, Dorothea Funk, adds, “The current plan will mean enormous increases in heavy truck traffic, dust, noise, and light trespass in our beautiful, natural amphitheatre where five valleys meet. Residents fear it will be like living in an industrial camp and it will also be unattractive, even shocking, to visitors. We know there is a better way that will benefit everyone.”

The final decision on the Cariboo Gold Project now sits jointly with the Honourable George Heyman, minister of Environment & Climate Change Solutions and the Honourable Josie Osborne, minister of Energy, Mines & Low Carbon Innovation.

The ministers are expected to hand down a decision in early October. Members of FRED, the Friends of Responsible Economic Development in Wells, B.C., are hoping the project will be rejected as submitted so that the Montreal-based developer can resubmit the project in a configuration that would be less detrimental to the environment, economy, and way of life of the community while still profitable to investors.

Judy Campbell notes, “A careless decision would be a waste of a giant opportunity to forge a much better outcome for the Ministry of Mining, the Environmental Assessment Office, and Osisko Mining Development, while protecting the sustainable cultural, historic and tourism-based economy that has matured in the absence of corporate mining in Wells.”

FRED is a community-based group of concerned citizens which firmly opposes the location of its massive industrial building complex in a residential neighbourhood. FRED’s “Plan B, for Better” would see above-ground services relocated just a few hundred metres to the back side of the mountain south of town. There is an existing mine site already owned and operated by Osisko. This would eliminate most of the negative impacts of the project, including heavy truck traffic through town, while retaining the positive benefits of the current plan. There would be the same job creation, the same benefits to First Nations, the same economic spin-offs to the region and tax revenues to the province. In fact, the benefits would be greater, because jobs and spin-offs in tourism and culture that currently stand to be lost would not only be retained but enabled to grow. FRED members are appealing to the Ministers to reject the project if they cannot make the necessary changes.

Says Dirk Van Stralen, another District of Wells councillor who opposes the current proposal, “Why not a solution where everyone wins? It would be a story worth telling.”

Frank Peebles

About the Author: Frank Peebles

I started my career with Black Press Media fresh out of BCIT in 1994, as part of the startup of the Prince George Free Press, then editor of the Lakes District News.
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