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May 8, 2007

 

Office of the Auditor General of Canada

Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development

Petition regarding environmental damage and remediation at former federal Devco mine sites

 

Coal has been mined commercially in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia since 1720. The Cape Breton Development Corporation (Devco) was formed by an Act of Parliament in 1967 to conduct coal mining and related operations in the Sydney coalfield. The Corporation closed its last remaining coal mine in 2001 and is now responsible and accountable for the long-term environmental remediation efforts of its sites which include 586 properties covering 5,490 hectares of land.

.

Although the federal government reportedly committed $150 million to remediate Devco’s properties, Nova Scotia’s provincial government says the money was not on the table. 

 

Consequently, after the mineral rights to Devco’s coal leases reverted to the province in 2003, the provincial government issued a call for proposals for “reclamation mining” of a number of Devco properties including the Prince Mine. The proposals called for strip mining the remaining near surface coal, with the companies using the proceeds from the coal to pay for the reclamation, and the province collecting the royalties and using the domestic coal for energy. A separate call for proposals was issued for Devco’s underground mine at Donkin.

 

In 2005, after Nova Scotia issued Pioneer Coal Ltd. a special lease for the mineral rights to coal in the Point Aconi Resource Block that includes Devco’s Prince Mine property, the company submitted an application for approval of a Surface Coal Mine and Reclamation Project to the Nova Scotia Department of Environment and Labour (NSDEL). The project consists of the extraction of approximately 1.6 million tons of near surface coal over a 7 year period from the 85 hectares of coastal woodlands and wetlands between the mine portals to out under the Atlantic Ocean and includes eventual reclamation of Devco’s Prince Mine property. Part of the project’s site is Nova Scotia Crown Land, Nova Scotia Power, and private homes.

 

At a public meeting organized by the area’s concerned Citizens Against Strip Mining at Point Aconi Community Hall on January 27, 2006, the then NS Minister of Energy and MLA for the area said that the province has an obligation to cleanup and remediate the mine sites but does not have the money to do it, if the federal money was on the table for redevelopment the debate would be different, if the money was there then they would go to the communities to find alternate ways to clean up the sites instead of strip mining.

 

As a result of public outcry, the province acknowledged that there had been some trouble at existing sites that haven’t been reclaimed to their full potential and placed a three-year moratorium on strip mining 13 of the 14 sites from the former Devco lease, all except the Prince Mine, and announced a two-year Reclamation Study of past surface mining problems in the region, including Pioneer Coal's previous strip mine at Reserve Mines.

 

In June 2006, just days before the Crown Corporation became subject to environmental assessment under previously announced amendments to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, Devco sold the Prince Mine in Point Aconi to Pioneer Coal Ltd.

 

Even though Pioneer Coal’s owner had repeatedly stated that it has no market for the high sulphur coal, in September 2006 NSDEL issued Pioneer an Industrial Approval for its Surface Mine and Reclamation project at the Prince Mine site.  Nova Scotia Power Inc. has asked for a bulk sample before deciding on purchasing the coal for its power plants.  Although NSPI built the Point Aconi power plant in 1994 to burn the high-sulphur Cape Breton coal with minimal emissions the quality of coal from the Prince Mine could not be consumed in the Point Aconi boiler. It’s cheaper to import clean coal and petcoke than rebuild the power plants.

 

Since receiving approval, Pioneer Coal Ltd. has been raping the land for coal that has no market.  The Prince Mine’s surface has been excavated and the material used to build an elevated haul road bulldozed through woodlands and unmentioned wetlands to an unmentioned brook along the ocean shore that NSDEL was not aware of until local residents reported it. 

 

Pioneer is currently excavating behind the homes along Forrest Lane in preparation for highwall mining under them. In the area surface water enters bootleg pits, drains into the Water Level Tunnel and gathers at the water pumping station and then directed into the Prince Mine underground workings. This water is highly acidic and cannot be discharged into the environment untreated. Pioneer plans to strip mine then backfill to solve the problem.

 

Devco has said all along that the area and workings ought to be sealed but there’s no mention of doing so in NSDEL’s Environmental Assessment and Industrial Approval process. Pioneer Coal’s EA registration document states that the Prince Mine’s underground workings will reach capacity for acid mine drainage in 2008 but provided no plan to deal with it, nor has the province required one despite its own EA terms and conditions for IA approval.

 

Many toxic materials were dumped into the 5.7 acre Waste Rock Pile at Devco’s Prince Mine, and the Acid Water Treatment Facility built next to it is also discharging an “orange precipitate” into a brook that flows into lucrative fishing grounds at the mouth of the Bras d’Or Lakes near the Bird Islands 7 km offshore.

 

NSDEL, in consultation with DFO and Environment Canada, has stated that the “orange precipitate” is not acidic and poses no adverse effects other than aesthetic. However, typical evidence of Acid Mine Drainage can be seen throughout disturbed areas of the site that is very high in sulphide bearing materials, and local residents’ PH tests of various samples of water from the Prince Mine site show extremely high acidic conditions.

 

The company has not provided, and the province has not required, any detailed plans on cleaning up the toxic Waste Rock Pile and dysfunctional Acid Water Treatment Facility at the Prince Mine, nor any details of a surface water collection system capable of diverting the mine water and site runoff to the underground workings and settling ponds during the strip mining operations.

 

The mine site is near the tip of Boularderie Island at the mouth of the Bras d’Or Lakes and is surrounded by salt water. The 85 hectares to be strip mined is composed of woodlands and over 20 hectares of wetlands atop an important aquifer that is adjacent to some of the richest agricultural land in Nova Scotia. If the aquifer is destroyed there is no other water supply.  

 

South of the project area on Boularderie Island, there is an approximately 4 sq km cluster of long term and rotation crop farms located north of Millville and west of Highway 162, approximately 2.5 km from the project area. There are several farms located along the shores of Mill Creek, between Mill Creek and Highway 105, as well as a concentration on either side of the local highway near Millville

 

Immediately offshore are lucrative fishing grounds and the Bird Islands. The Bird Islands support the largest colonies of nesting seabirds in Nova Scotia. Great cormorants, Double-crested cormorants, Herring gulls and Black-backed gulls forage and roost on the rocky islands near Point Aconi lighthouse. Razorbills and Kittiwakes are also seen regularly in the area. Red-breasted mergansers, Common golden-eye, and Long-tail duck frequent the turbulent waters at the Point Aconi lighthouse from late October to April. Bank swallows nest along the shore in the sandy cliff edges of Boularderie Island. Migratory birds are protected under the Migratory Birds Convention Act (MCBA) which prohibits deposition of harmful substance such as oil to migratory birds or areas frequented by migratory birds and prohibits disturbance/destruction of nests, eggs and nesting areas of migratory birds. Migratory birds in the proposed project area reflect the habitats present. Species present are generally common throughout the regional area.

 

A survey of fishers undertaken by DFO in 1998 identified active herring spawning locations, particularly in the spring, along the coast of Boularderie Island. The area around the Bird Islands, approximately 8 km northwest from the project site, is known to be an important juvenile rearing area for resident cod during the summer.  The main commercial fishery along the shores of Boularderie Island is the Lobster fishery. At Big Bras d’Or, to the southwest of the project, unofficial landings ranged from approximately 75,000 lbs to 110,000 lbs. To the southeast at Bras d’Or, there was a range of approximately 6000 to 18000 lbs and at Alder Point a range of approximately 200,000 to 260,000 lbs. At Point Aconi port, to the north of the project area, unofficial landings ranged from 30,000 to 70,000 lbs. Many lobster fishers fish lobster for their primary source of revenue, and then fish other species such as herring, mackerel, scallops, rock crab, smelts, gaspereau, groundfish etc. for bait or to supplement their fishing income.

 

This scenic panoramic coastal area has been used by local residents for generations for hunting, fishing, boating, berrypicking, hiking, beachcombing, swimming, bird and lighthouse and fossil tours, and other recreational purposes amidst a 250-year heritage of coal mining. The area’s small hand dug bootleg crop pits over the centuries have posed no hazardous problems whatsoever to residents using the area other than becoming typical dumping grounds for garbage that do need to be cleared up. 

 

Previous strip mines in the region have caused domestic well problems and evidence of acid mine drainage and have still not been reclaimed to an acceptable standard.

 

These environmental and sustainable development concerns were not addressed in NSDEL’s assessment and approval process of the Prince Mine project and apparently there was no consultation with Devco or the federal government, or other stakeholders in the community.  There was no cost-benefit analysis of the Prince Mine project, a comprehensive assessment of all possible options which takes into consideration the full range of social, economic and environmental factors has never been undertaken.

 

Devco’s newly appointed president says its properties are to be divested in a good clean state and there’s a $100-million five-year remediation effort underway. At the old coal workings, once the rock comes in contact with oxygen, the sulphur in the rock switches to sulphuric acid and that material contributes to a lot of environmental damage and we have to make sure that it is all sealed. But the province is doing the opposite.

 

In December 2006, in a last ditch attempt to gain some authority on how strip mining developments are handled particularly on the issues of water quality and erosion, the Cape Breton Regional Municipality unanimously approved an amendment to the municipal planning strategy that could require companies to obtain a development permit in order to strip mine in parts of the municipality, but the bylaw has been rejected by the province.

 

In March, 2007 NSDNR approved the issuance of a lease to the 61.24 hectares of NS Crown land at Pioneer’s Prince Mine project for the purpose of surface mining for coal. When questioned in the House of Assembly about it, Nova Scotia’s Minister of Natural Resources said that the Prince Mine area is pocked  with open bootleg pits and this goes a long way to cleaning up the devastation that has been left from a couple of centuries of coal mining. The provincial government no longer mentions using the coal for domestic energy as a rationale for the project.

 

In April 2007, NSDEL’s Compliance and Monitoring Investigator finally received and is reviewing a copy of the "Prince Mine Baseline Environmental Site Assessment" done for PWGSC in 2004 that was not reviewed by the province prior to issuing its environmental assessment and industrial approvals of Pioneer Coal's strip mine.

 

Since we have not been heard in spite of all the efforts we have made for the last two years trying to dialogue with the provincial government, we have been forced to act and resort to means which are not of our liking or something we normally do.  We resent having to appear as troublemakers and this is not the usual position in life of members of the community who have had to spend so much time and energy in an attempt, likely futile, to have things done correctly. We do not ask for anything more than respect for our jobs, our homes, our lands, access to water and overall respect of the environment. It should be a given in a country such as Canada, but in Nova Scotia it currently is not so. There are rules in Nova Scotia but they have not been respected during the approval process of the Prince Mine project. This is why we have the right to protest and petition and why we exercise our rights and responsibilities to do so. The whole process has been wrong from the start, but why should we pay for the province's mistakes and the lack of federal collaboration? Why did they let this project go so far?

 

On behalf of the many citizens against strip mining the region, we hereby petition the Government of Canada to:

 

- stop development at the Prince Mine project immediately until a federal Environmental Assessment is done and the impact on wetlands and the fisheries and other issues are satisfactorily addressed;

 

- clarify the responsibility of the federal government to clean up Devco properties, including the Prince, and the province’s decision to strip mine them for unmarketable coal instead;

 

- establish federal, provincial, municipal and community stakeholder consultation on the remediation and development of Devco properties;  

 

- establish a process that enables municipalities to have more ability to protect our water, lands, forests, oceans and environmental and sustainable development from the adverse effects of mining;

 

- make renewable energy a priority, and ban high sulphur coal until and unless it can be used cleanly and economically and mined without devastating Cape Breton for decades to come;

 

- and answer the following questions:

 

1) Why is Devco’s Prince Mine property at Point Aconi being strip mined even though there’s no market for the high sulphur coal?

 

2) Why wasn’t a federal Environmental Assessment triggered?

 

3) What is the federal government’s responsibility for environmental conditions and liabilities at Devco’s Prince Mine and other properties?

 

4) Given that the Prince Mine is a federal site that toxic materials were left on, what has the government done to remediate the site?

 

5) What is the budget for cleaning up Devco's properties and how was the figure determined? What is the breakdown on what is spent at each site? What is the timeline for remediation?

 

6) How much was allocated to clean up the Prince Mine? Why is the funding not available?

 

7) What if any conditions were attached to Devco’s sale of the Prince Mine property? Was there any consultation between the federal and provincial governments during the sale and approval of the Prince Mine project?

 

8) What is the difference between what NSDEL says is “orange precipitate” and what everyone else says is typical “Acid Mine Drainage”? What is Environment Canada and DFO doing about the “orange precipitate” being discharged into a brook that flows into ocean fishing grounds at the mouth of the Bras d'Or Lakes?

 

9) Did the 2004 "Prince Mine Baseline Environmental Site Assessment" done for PWGSC find any environmental issues, current and potential?  What did the federal government do about it? Can we get a copy of the report?

 

10) How much did Devco receive for the sale of the Prince and Donkin Mine properties? Where is the footprint of the Prince Mine property sold to Pioneer Coal Ltd and what is its total size?

 

11) What’s there to stop the province of Nova Scotia from strip mining other federal Devco properties?

 

Citizens Against Strip Mining

Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

www.c-a-s-m.org

 

 


Supporting information

 

Province Accepts Coal Leases

Department of Natural Resources

July 16, 2003 14:48

 

The Cape Breton Development Corporation has relinquished its coal

lease for the Sydney coalfields. The announcement that the lease

has been surrendered to the province was made today, July 16, by

Natural Resources Minister Tim Olive.

 

"Now that the province has control of the coal rights we will be

able to look at what opportunities they may provide in the

future," said Mr. Olive. "There is the potential for continued

mining of the coal reserves, which could provide economic

development opportunities for Cape Breton Island."

 

The Department of Natural Resources expects there will be private

sector interest in developing coal resources in the Sydney

coalfield. The department will administer a fair and an open

process to consider applications for new coal leases over known

reserves.

--30—

 

Cape Breton Coal Exploration Call Issued

Department of Natural Resources

December 5, 2003 13:26

 

The province issued a call today, Dec. 5, for proposals for

exploration, development and reclamation of coal resources for

four areas of Cape Breton.

 

The four areas, or claim blocks, are located in Point Aconi,

Broughton, Boularderie Island and Birch Grove areas Cape Breton

Island.

 

"Nova Scotia still has significant coal resources which can

benefit our province and our communities when mined in an

economically viable and environmentally responsible way," said

Natural Resources Minister Richard Hurlburt. "This is an

opportunity for private industry to pursue mining of coal

deposits."

 

"The provinces's energy strategy, Seizing the Opportunity,

committed the government to supporting the responsible

development of our coal resource," said Energy Minister Cecil

Clarke. "Today's call for proposal honours that commitment."

 

The province owns the coal resources of Nova Scotia. This call

for proposals will provide the successful bidder(s) with the

opportunity to acquire the mineral rights to these sites in the

form of a mineral lease. The lessee will be subject to the laws

of Nova Scotia and will be required to obtain land access rights

and all the necessary environmental approvals before mining can

begin. Several of these sites require reclamation work because of

past underground mining operations.

 

"Reclamation can be accomplished through mining the remaining

coal and reclaiming the area as part of the surface mine

operations," said Mr. Hurlburt.

--30—

 

Surface Coal Mine Restrictions Announced

Environment and Labour

September 12, 2006 13:02

 

The Department of Environment and Labour has issued an industrial approval for a surface coal mine in Cape Breton.

 

The approval contains more than 50 conditions that focus on protecting drinking water sources, wildlife, aesthetics, wetlands, and residential properties in the area.

 

Pioneer Coal Limited proposes to operate the 85 hectare surface mine near Point Aconi.

 

An industrial approval is the final step in the review process for such projects required by the Environment Act. It sets out in detail the daily operational requirements needed to meet the conditions of the environment assessment approval.

 

That approval was issued Dec. 28, 2005. Its conditions reflected public consultation and the results into the potential cumulative effects of surface coal mining in Cape Breton.

 

There are no other applications for surface coal mining registered with the Department of Environment and Labour.

 

The 316-page industrial approval document contains over 50 restrictions placed on the company.

 

Among the key conditions are :

 

-- minimizing changes to aesthetics. Rock and soil moved during the mining operation will be continually put back in place as work goes on.

 

-- protecting groundwater. The company will conduct extensive and ongoing monitoring of surrounding water supplies to guard against any effect from the operation of the mine.

 

-- monitoring wetlands. Affected wetlands must be restored in a manner consistent with Nova Scotia's Wetlands Compensation Policy.

 

-- protecting wildlife. The company must adhere to their Environmental Protection Plan for wildlife protection and consult with the Department of Natural Resources and/or Canadian Wildlife Services.

 

A complete reclamation of the site must be conducted by the company when the mine lease ends in seven years.

 

The company must also continue to inform the Citizen's Liaison Committee about the mine's operation.

 

A brief summary of the industrial approval document is located on the Environment and Labour website at www.gov.ns.ca/enla/docs/PioneerCoal_IndustrialApproval.pdf .

--30--

 

20 April 2007

New C.B. development boss ready for Devco

By JOCELYN BETHUNE

Chronicle Herald

 

Ross McCurdy is ready for the challenge.

 

But one of the first orders of business for the new chairman of the Cape Breton Development Corporation the Crown corporation that operated coal mines on the island  between 1967 and 2001 is explaining Devco’s new role.

 

"Yes, they are out of the coal mining business," he says with fresh enthusiasm, when asked by The Chronicle Herald what kind of business Devco is doing these days,  other than issuing pension cheques.

 

"But they have a lot of property holdings and they are responsible for the remediation of all those sites," he said in a phone interview from his Halifax home.

 

"When the corporation divests those properties they are to be divested in a good clean state. In fact, there is going to be a fair amount of monitoring and looking at the  consequences of the mining activities well onto the future. So it’s an extremely important phase.

 

"People don’t realize really how much remediation is going on. It’s a big, big activity," he said.

 

The 58-year-old, a distant cousin of J.A.D. McCurdy the first man to fly in Canada when he piloted the Silver Dart in Baddeck in 1909 was most recently at the helm of  Ocean Nutrition in Dartmouth. Before that, he was CEO at InNOVA Corp., a provincial agency that assists technology startups.

 

His background is in environmental science, so "it’s . . . natural for me to come back into this," he said.

 

This is "the last chapter in the Devco book," he said.

 

"But part of that last chapter is to be leveraging long-term benefits for the community."

 

In the years before the last coal miner walked out of Prince mine in the fall of 2001, Devco employed as many as 1,400 in coal mines in New Waterford, Sydney Mines  and Glace Bay. Now, there are 16 employees and most of the remediation work will be done through outsourcing, with "a lion’s share of that to firms within the Cape  Breton boundary."

 

The $100-million, five-year remediation effort will involve a combination of both underground and above-ground work

 

"The old coal workings, the rock produces acid we have to make sure that it is all sealed. As long as we keep that rock away from the oxygen it causes no harm. Once it  comes in contact with oxygen, the sulphur in the rock switches to sulphuric acid and that material contributes to a lot of environmental damage," he said.

 

Clay or some other impervious membrane is layered over the rock and topped with several feet of soil, isolating the rock, to bring the site "back to its untouched state,"  he said.

 

The land can then be used for development or greenbelts.

 

He’s been in the job just over a week, so some of the finer details are not right at hand, he explains, when asked just how many hectares of land will need remediation.

 

"I’ve got a five-year term and most of the remediation will have taken place within that five-year period," he said.

 

That’s not to say the human side of the corporation will be forgotten, he said. There is still the "ongoing care and maintenance of the benefits of the former coal miners" as well as a public recording of the "Devco story over the last 40 to 50 years."

 

"An awful lot of Cape Bretoners contributed to the coal mining business in one way, shape or form. Boy, I’d hate for that just to be forgotten.

 

"We have files on 10,000 miners and I’d like them to have fond memories of what they did during their career. We often look at the negative, but there is also a very  positive part which I hope we can bring out in time," he said.

 

--30—

 

Nova Scotia

Department of Environment and Labour

Gerard MacLellan

Executive Director

Environmental Monitoring and Compliance Division

PO Box 697 Halifax, NS B3J 2T8

Tel: (902) 424-2548

 

March 14, 2007

 

I am responding to your questions related to the "orange precipitate" raised during our recent meeting with Minister Parent in Sydney. I am responding as Executive  Director responsible for the Environmental Monitoring and Compliance Division.

 

The Department has reviewed a considerable volume of information with respect to the concern of an orange precipitate at the surface coal mine and reclamation project  of Pioneer Coal Limited, Point Aconi, Cape Breton County. This precipitate has been observed in a portion of MacDonald Brook adjacent to the existing settling pond  infrastructure from the former Cape Breton Development Corporation's (Devco) underground coal mine, namely the Prince Mine.

 

A review of historic photographs provided by Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources shows a history of coal extraction in the area of the former Prince Mine. These  photos date back over a span of 60 years, and it is conclusive that both bootleg and commercial mining have been very active.

 

Pioneer Coal Limited (PCL) is the present owner of the former Prince Mine site. In addition to an approval to operate a surface coal mine, the site is also a reclamation  project. PCL is actively preparing the site for surface mining of coal; and, at the same time, they are carrying out reclamation of old workings, buildings, spoil piles, etc.,  left by bootleg operations and previous landowners.

 

The orange precipitate viewed is caused by water which has an elevated iron load and becomes oxygenated when discharged over the ground surface. This exposure to  oxygen causes the dissolved iron in the water to precipitate out of solution, which results in staining and iridescence on the rocks and vegetation at the discharge area.

 

In this situation, the water being discharged is characterized by a slightly basic pH (>7) and therefore is not acidic. Although the look is not aesthetically pleasing, a  bioassay test has shown that mortality or stressed behaviour did not occur in fish exposed to this water.

 

NSEL and the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Environment Canada are collaborating and assisting each other with reviewing and monitoring the  situation. Information gathered has been referred to Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Environment Canada regarding the discharges to MacDonald Brook as these  agencies may be the more appropriate regulatory agencies to deal with this matter from an "adverse effect" perspective.

 

Presently, NSEL is developing a weekly pH monitoring schedule. In addition, the Department is reviewing several possible areas where this discharge water may be  receiving iron. The possible areas include drainage originating at nearby bootleg workings, Devco waste rock pile, and the settlement/surge pond.

 

It is important to keep in mind that, throughout the life of the mining project, PCL will be addressing a great number of environmental and safety issues that have  existed prior to its interest in the property. Addressing these liabilities will foster the surrounding area to return to a rehabilitated state that will be beneficial for all.

 

If you wish to obtain a copy of lab test results, please contact Mrs. Carla Heggie, Information Access & Privacy Manger, at (902) 424-8472. Other inquires regarding the  approval can be directed to Mr. Brad Langille, Inspector Specialist at (902) 563-2100.

 

Sincerely,

Gerard MacLellan

Executive Director Environmental Monitoring and Compliance Division

 

--30--

 

March 29, 2007

Remediation needed but should be done without strip mining

Cape Breton Post

 

It is truly amazing that some corporations appear to have total control over government. It is apparent that mining companies can tear up provincial roadways regardless  of damage or the inconvenience to nearby residents. Taxpayers are now just a source of revenue, stomped on when corporations want their way.

 

A major part of Sherilee Lane is apparently to be destroyed without even a public hearing. Fishermen who use this roadway will lose access to their livelihood. That's  shows little concern for residents and for keeping people in Cape Breton.

 

With the Donkin mine's two- million-tonne production coming onstream, we will have the all the coal we need. This could also save our railroad. There is no need to  destroy Boularderie Island and its water supply.

 

Yes, remediation of old mine sites is needed. The 1947 strip mine site in Little Pond (Mills Mining and Devco) should be reclaimed, levelled and grassed.

 

This area is serviced by bed-and- breakfast homes overlooking the ocean and should be cleaned up before any consideration is given to a new strip mine.

 

As well, the old Franklyn mine site, also owned by Devco, is a disgrace in the centre of a fine residential area. Don't mine it; just clean it up.

 

The next five years should be dedicated to real cleanup of these sites. If there is any justice and democracy left, strip mining on Boularderie Island should stop to save  established industry, homes and the water supply.

 

J. Wesley Stubbert

Florence

District 16 councillor,

Cape Breton Regional Municipality

 

--30--

 

January 18, 2007

Green Party calls for halt to Cape Breton strip mining operation

 

Ottawa – Green Party leader Elizabeth May today joined Citizens Against Strip Mining, a Cape Breton group, in calling on Environment Minister John Baird to work to stop  strip mining activities on Cape Breton island until such time as a full environmental assessment can be carried out at the Prince Mine site in Point Aconi. If Pioneer Coal  proceeds with this devastating project, Cape Bretoners could see 13 more strip mines totalling 29,000 acres stretching along the coastline from Boularderie Island to Port  Morien."

 

"Cape Bretoners do not want companies to strip mine their island. They are worried about the environmental devastation that strip mining may well bring, including  habitat destruction, water pollution and depletion of fish stocks. As a federal politician with Cape Breton roots, I oppose this strip mine and urge Minister Baird to  conduct an environmental assessment before this project goes any further."

 

-- 30 --

 

Friday, November 3, 2006

MP calls for environmental assessment

Cape Breton Post

 

POINT ACONI - Sydney-Victoria MP Mark Eyking is calling on federal Environment Minister Rona Ambrose to conduct an environmental assessment of the proposed strip  mining operation on Boularderie Island.

 

Citizens Against Strip Mining (CASM) on Boularderie Island contends that a number of conditions laid out by the province have not been met by Pioneer Coal.

 

The Antigonish company received a permit to extract 1.6 million tonnes of coal from a site near Point Aconi in September.

 

"It is my hope that the environment minister will listen to area residents and halt this operation until a comprehensive federal assessment is completed, Eyking said.

 

"Area residents are concerned about their water, the destruction of wetlands and fish habitat. I remain oppposed to strip 'mining on Boularderie Island, and I am very  disappointed that no action has been taken to adequately address the concerns of residents.

 

"Hopefully Ms. Ambrose will take action."

 

--30 --

 

February 17, 2006

Morgan wants review of strip mine sites

Pioneer Coal continues to work on approval for Point Aconi

CAPE BRETON POST

 

Mayor John Morgan is calling on the federal environment minister to conduct a full panel review of proposed strip mine sites in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality  before development of those properties can begin.

 

It's the latest attempt by the municipality to stop the industry from gaining a foothold in the CBRM.

 

In his letter to Environment Minister Rona Ambrose, Morgan stated: "To date, I have not been advised that the requirements of the Canadian Environmental Assessment  Act have been complied with."

 

He said federal approval is required because there are "significant portions" of federal property on the coal resource blocks where the development of strip mines could  take place.

 

"I am requesting that both the federal and provincial governments ensure that all appropriate federal authorizations are obtained" to proceed with the developments,  Morgan said.

 

The letter, which was sent last week, comes as Pioneer Coal of Antigonish continues its work in obtaining the necessary environmental and industrial approvals for a  proposed strip mine site in the Point Aconi area.

 

The conditions also include calling upon the company to submit a plan for the formation of a community liaison committee, with members from the community, and to set  up a dispute resolution process.

 

Morgan said the transfer of federal leases to the province means developers have to follow the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

 

"I think the federal government has an obligation to abide by its own legislation it has passed and imposed on itself," he said.

 

Federal Environment Department spokesperson William Cook said the newly minted minister wasn't prepared to comment until she's fully briefed on the issue.

 

The provincial Department of Environment couldn't shed much light on Morgan's claim either.

 

"The two departments exchange information constantly about each other's projects, so I think the best place to go for comment would actually be the federal  department," said spokesperson Bill Turpin.

 

The municipality continues to drive forward with its plan to make amendments to the municipal land-use bylaw that could possibly wrestle jurisdiction of strip mines  away from the province.

 

Morgan said the amendments are an important piece of the legal argument that the municipality is prepared to take on.

 

He said there is "virtually no public support" for strip mines in the region, and the CBRM may end up in court to stop developers.

 

"If they begin digging, l think we have to ask for an injunction to stop them from digging."

 

-- 30 --

 

May 11, 2006

 

Dear Mr. Peach:

 

I am responding to your e-mail of April 18, 2006 regarding coal mining in Cape Breton. Your concerns about surface mining in this area are clearly heartfelt. My  government has listened to these concerns and we are trying very hard to take them into consideration in our decision making on this issue. My Ministers and I have  taken the opportunity to visit the Prince Mine site at Point Aconi and to view its current condition. It is abundantly clear that the land on this property is in a derelict  state, from years of underground mining and bootlegging. There can be no question that a significant effort is required to return this property to a safe and productive  state, and it remains my conviction that the best means to effect this is to allow the remaining coal to be recovered, and to allow this recovery to pay for the  remediation. I believe that the end result will be a benefit for the land and for the community.

 

I understand your concern about groundwater in the area. This concern is one of the specific items that is addressed in the environmental assessment for this project and  will also be addressed as part of the industrial approval. There is an abundance of experience and knowledge on the effects of surface mines on groundwater, both in  Nova Scotia and elsewhere. I am confident that this activity can be carried out without regional impact on groundwater quantity or quality.

 

Sincerely,

 

Rodney J. MacDonald,

Premier Province of Nova Scotia

 

--30—

 

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