Citizens Against Strip Mining
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January 15, 2008
CASM Presentation to CBRM Council

On behalf of the many Citizens Against Strip Mining on Boularderie Island, I’d like to thank you for this opportunity to present our concerns to Council and to call for your support of a proposal that may be a solution to the problem facing us.

This problem began after the federal crown corporation Devco closed the Prince Mine in Point Aconi in 2001 and began divesting Devco’s assets.

The coal rights were eventually transferred to the province which then issued a call for proposals to strip mine the first of 14 sites across the region under the pretext of cleaning up past mining and promoting the use of domestic coal under the province’s Energy Strategy.

Hundreds of residents including the area’s County Councilors and Mayors and future MLA’s and MPs and First Nations elders packed Boularderie Island’s community halls and the Big Fiddle in Sydney to express our concerns.

But to no avail. Not just us, but everyone including the experts and federal documents, were ignored by the Nova Scotia departments of Environment and Labour, and Natural Resources, and Energy.

During the course of the province’s approval process Devco conveyed the Prince Mine property to Pioneer Coal on June 6th, 2006 just days before it would have become subject to the federal environmental assessment process, nothing of which was ever mentioned in the province’s Industrial Approval in September 2006, not even Devco’s $6.6 million estimate to clean up the property.

The provincial Environment Department did not verify any of the information provided by the proponent, and did not even review Devco’s reports of the Prince Mine until long after issuing their approval to strip mine Point Aconi, and only then after an application for investigation was filed in January 2007.

The investigator’s report was sanitized while his follow-up report to the Minister is being squelched under the Freedom of Information act.

We were told that the investigation found that the environmental assessment and approval process was flawed and needs to be changed.

At stake is our water supply, our fishing grounds, our farms, our homes, our children’s future, our communities, our natural resources and sustainable development at the mouth of the Bras d’Or Lakes at this first of 14 proposed sites across the region.

For the provincial government to continue making the same mistakes with complete disregard for the costly environmental consequences for decades to come is inexcusable. To ignore the knowledge and concerns of the community is unacceptable.

At Point Aconi and across the region the legacy from past mining is there for all to see who take a close look. But the Environment Department turned a blind eye to the obvious problems and instead of solving any are creating more.

Under the pretext of “cleaning up” past mining, hundreds of acres of Point Aconi’s healthy coastal woodlands and wetlands are being destroyed for generations to come to strip mine high sulphur coal that was never considered fit to burn before and is banned in many places around the world even before the new emission standards.

In addition to organizing many public meetings and rallies, the Citizens Against Strip Mining have used every avenue available to voice our concerns. We have exercised what few rights we have under Nova Scotia’s Environment Act to file public submissions on the project, submitted a formal appeal to the Minster and an application for investigation under Section 115.

We have had constant correspondence with the Department but when they’re not twisting the meaning of words, their standard answer to everything is to contact their anonymous Community Liaison Committee, call the number for the mine site, or apply to the province’s Freedom of Information officer for answers to our questions and concerns.

Last month, in a debate in the provincial House of Assembly the Opposition asked the government why they’re strip mining beautiful Cape Breton. In his response the Environment Minister gave no reason, not even the past claims that we need the coal or are just cleaning up past mining.

Under the Environment Act, if the Minister believes that there is a likelihood of an irreparable adverse effect he may make an order to shut down or stop an undertaking forthwith. It's all at the discretion of the Minister of Environment.

Other companies are waiting in the wings for the Pioneer Coal case to die down so they can begin strip mining the Boularderie Resource Block under the same flawed assessment and approval process.

Meanwhile, the brook from the wetlands to the ocean that the Environment department did not know about has been cut off by the open pit of the strip mining near the shore that has never been mined before for obvious reasons, there’s water flowing everywhere. They’re supposedly pumping the mine water into the underground workings but where do they go, and when will they reach capacity? Then what?

The Environment Department has told Point Aconi’s residents already being affected by the blasting and water runoff to call the mine site, but no name is ever given nor has the company ever provided any information to the public. The government approved Community Liaison Committee is still no where to be seen or heard and has only met twice in the past year.

Last month the Premier arranged for us to meet with staff from the Environment Department today, but due to our conflict in schedules we have postponed the meeting to a more convenient date.

We hope that your will support our proposal to the provincial government for a public independent review of strip mining in the Region.

Strip mining Point Aconi is already causing significant adverse environmental effects that cannot be justified under the circumstances, the negative effects of this project far outweigh the benefits. It took a public independent review for the government to recognize that in the case of Digby Neck and reject the quarry. The people of Cape Breton had no such independent public hearing.

The Opposition parties in the provincial House of Assembly have called for a second look and an independent review of strip mining Cape Breton.

Boularderie Island’s Councilor for Victoria-County supports the call for an independent review and will be raising the matter at their Council meeting next week.

Boularderie’s Councilor for CBRM supports the call and we’d like to thank him for his guidance in bringing this matter to Council.

Boularderie Island’s Member of Parliament also supports the call for an independent review and will be urging the party’s provincial leader to support it.

And First Nations Mi’kmaq elders support the call for a review of the decision to strip mine Point Aconi.

But Point Aconi is just the first of 14 proposed strip mines in CBRM. What’s happening here could happen anywhere under the province’s existing environmental assessment and approval process for strip mining.

We hope that you will all support our call for a public independent review of the province’s decision to strip mine our region of Cape Breton before any more unjustifiable destruction of our environment is permitted.

Thank you.

Citizens Against Strip Mining

Council spent almost an hour discussing it with 7 Councilors speaking on the matter and all commending us, the Mayor asked a few questions. CBRM Council moved a motion to: (1) request a public independent review of strip mining coal in Cape Breton as was done with the proposed quarry in Digby Neck; (2) request further strip mining be stopped; (3) request the project’s Community Liaison Committee to meet with the public and address the concerns of the community; (4) to send a copy of Council's decision to the MLAs and MPs. The vote was unanimous: 17 to 0!

Do you support the call for
a public independent review
of strip mining coal in Cape Breton?

Survey of elected representatives in Cape Breton

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