CASM presentation to DNR
24 June 2008 - Along with other environmental groups, CASM attended a meeting in Halifax with Natural Resources Minister David Morse, Deputy Minister Peter Underwood, Scott Swindon and several other DNR staff. DNR's Don Jones was scheduled to give a presentation on Reclamation but couldn't make it due to a "family matter", so Swindon gave a glossed over view of their Reclamation "success stories" at Sullivan's Creek and Little Pond etc. Below is CASM's 15 minute presentation that ended in stunned silence and the wind taken out of Swindon's sails.
Footnote: Mr. Swindon says he does not recognize himself in the above description of him slumped in his chair with his legs stretched out with nothing to say. Unfortunately we have no photos so the public can judge for themselves. To paraphrase Scott, we hope that we won't have to deal with too much more of DNR's twisting of events as DNR goes forward with its "flagship" reclamation project at Point Aconi that DNR failed to trumpet in its presentation of "success stories", and failed to mention the reclamation moratorium on the other 13 sites on DNR's map. The concerned public has a right to know the facts to enable any meaningful dialogue with DNR, which was the purpose of the meeting.
I’d like to thank you for this opportunity to meet with all of you today and learn about DNR’s mineral resources plans, and for you to learn about our perspective of your mining plans and the effects that they have on our lives and on our communities and on our environment for decades to come, and the reasons for our concerns.
If you've ever driven the Trans Canada Highway over Kelly's Mountan and stopped at the Bras d'Or lookoff, you can see Boularderie Island and the Point Aconi power plant near the tip, and this strip mine is just to the right of it.
People across the Sydney coalfields have seen all the adverse effects of underground and strip mining in the region for generations.
You don’t have to be a scientist or a geologist to know what you can see with your own eyes on a daily basis at strip mined sites across the region, at Point Aconi...
and Merrit Point
and Alder Point,
and Reserve Mines to name a few.
Devco stopped strip mining because it cost more to restore the land than the coal was worth.
For numerous reasons, including scientific and technical issues, Devco closed the last of its underground mines in 2001, and that was supposed to be the end of the dirty coal business once and for all, and over $150 million worth of “remediation” was to begin.
But after Devco transferred the coal rights to the province, DNR issued a call for proposals for ”reclamation” at the first 4 of 14 planned strip mines that follow the coal seams across Boularderie Island and across the Cape Breton Regional Municipality of over 110,000 people.
In April 2005, DNR approved a special lease for coal for Pioneer Coal in the Point Aconi Resource Block that includes Devco's old Prince Mine and NSDNR Crown land between Sherie Lee Lane and the Atlantic Ocean.
Coastal Construction received the mining rights to the Boularderie Resource Block that stretches across the island.
Area residents packed community town hall meetings and said enough is enough. But at a public meeting in Sydney Mines in July 2005, DNR's Don Jones told the public that “no is not an option”, before any environmental assessment was done.
Pioneer Coal’s EARD stated that there’s “no wetlands” at the proposed mine site.
After a public outcry, the Minister of Environment required more information about the wetlands on DNR Crown land and a new map was produced, but it too proved to be deficient.
After Pioneer Coal was issued Industrial Approval in September 2006 to strip mine Point Aconi, an NSDNR Conservation Officer hired for the job clearcut through an un-reported wetland on the Devco part of the mine site.
After providing months of photographic evidence, it took a member of the public to file a Section 115 Application for Investigation under the Environment Act for the Investigator
to take a DNR biologist to the site and ask the obvious question: is this a wetland? And got the straight answer: Yes.
But by then it was too late, the irreparable damage was done.
After the site boundaries were blazed in October 2006, concerned residents submitted photographs of an unreported brook on the DNR Crown land that flows from the previously unreported wetlands into our lobster fishing grounds at the mouth of the Bras d’Or Lakes.
This brook is marked on the Federal Natural Resources maps available online but not on the provincial DNR maps.
A few feet from the brook, DNR surveyors had recently erected a 4 foot high white stake and carved the word CROWN into it.
The Environment department’s Inspector knew nothing about it and said he’d have to go and take GPS readings to determine if it was within the mine site.
In January, a monitoring well was installed, some straw strewn and a geotex fence put up around the DNR Crown stake next to the brook that DNR and DOE and Pioneer Coal and Conestoga-Rovers etc. failed to notice until local residents reported it.
The following summer the DNR Crown woodlands and wetlands that had never been mined before, was clearcut by the DNR Conservation Officer hired for the job and the "reclamation" began.
When concerned residents inspected the brook in Sept 2007, evidence of Acid Mine Drainage was seen being discharged into the ocean. DOE says it's harmless "orange percipitate".
Over the winter the brook was blocked off by the open pit strip mining on DNR Crown land, and the water from the wetlands flowed into the pit instead and was pumped out and into the underground workings, supposedly.
When concerned residents inspected the brook on DNR Crown land in March 2008, obvious evidence of siltation was seen being discharged into the ocean. Again, DOE's Inspector knew nothing about it.
This time it took intervention by our federal MP who came and inspected the brook and called DFO.
According to DNR Minister Morse this coastal Crown land at Point Aconi “is not a healthy or safe environment, and this goes a long way to cleaning up the devastation that has been left from a couple of centuries of coal mining in that area."
According to local residents, this coastal DNR Crown land was full of beautiful woodlands
and rare plants
and cranberry bogs
and scenic views
and fossils along the beach
Some old crop pits in the area aren’t much different than elsewhere in Nova Scotia
A year after the clean up and reclamation and progressive rehabilitation began,
this coastal DNR Crown Land in Point Aconi went from this:
to this :
Along the beach, the cliff is crumbling and cracking, the pit along the shore edge has been filled in and the remaining blast holes weren’t blown up. The brook remains cutoff, and unseen before orange water is oozing out of the cliff face along the shore. Obviousy it's not a "percipitate".
On the Devco side of the site, over a year ago the DNR Conservation Officer clearcut the trees along the Prince Mine Road that had been planted by the Boy Scouts and Excavation #1 began.
The area quickly filled with water and has remained untouched ever since.
Nothing is being done according to the approved mining blocks and "progressive rehabilitation" plan at all.
Only now are residents on Forest Lane learning from CASM that the government approved highwall mining under their homes and a 160 foot deep pit in their backyards.
There was no public consultation, there still isn’t any. You have still not informed the people of Nova Scotia about what you're doing at Point Aconi.
It is a heartache for local residents who have lived here for generations, and safely hiked and hunted and fished on the DNR Crown woodlands and wetlands along the shore at the mouth of the Bras d’Or Lakes,
who are now facing upheaval from the destruction of their land,
who are being shaken by blasting and bombarded with noise and dirt from open pit and highwall mining right under their homes,
who are being undermined by the loss of value of their properties that the mining company was supposed to have bought but didn’t,
and are being provided no help or compensation for being adversely affected by this “reclamation”. Where does it stop? This is just the beginning, the first year at this first of 14 sites across CBRM.
As this past year’s development at Point Aconi goes to show,
this is what DNR means by “reclamation”, and “no is not an option”. Obviously, something has to change.
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