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Company unveils new plan for B.C. mine to address concerns about health risks

The company behind a controversial copper-gold mine near Kamloops, B.C., has unveiled a new proposal in an effort to address concerns about potential health risks.

Members of the Kamloops Area Preservation Association have said an estimated 90,000 people could be exposed to toxic dust containing arsenic, lead and aluminum that would blow over the city from the open-pit mine that they fear is too close to homes.

Now, KGHM Ajax has come up with a plan to move the mine farther south and eliminate a tailings stack in favour of a conventional tailings pond to the southeast.

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The tailings pond will cover Goose Lake, which the company described as a slough with a maximum depth of one metre.

Ajax officials announced last August that they were working on a new mine plan. They also said the pit would be expanded, along with ore production.

The joint venture involves Poland-based KGHM and Vancouver junior partner Abacus Mining & Exploration Corp.

The project must still be approved by the federal and provincial governments after environmental assessments have been done. If that happens, the company hopes to begin construction in July, 2016.

KGHM Ajax has bought properties from two families to facilitate the new mine footprint.

"We've treated these people fairly and with respect," company spokesman Yves Lacasse said. "No one was forced to sell their land."

Company officials said changes are designed to address community concerns, including dust and visual impact.

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The proposals will now be sent through the federal-provincial comprehensive environmental assessment. KGHM plans to submit its complete application next March.

The company has a 60,000 tonnes-a-day production target for the anticipated 20-year life of the mine that would employ about 500 people.

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