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Site: Prince Mine, Point Aconi Block
Is the Reclamation of Point Aconi a success? DNR claims that "this site will return to Acadian forest conditions", when they don't say. See and judge for yourself!
SUNDAY, JANUARY 1, 2012
While everyone's frothing about fracking shale gas in Nova Scotia, for the past two months in the House of Assembly COAL was the subject of a great deal of debate, but not a word of it is ever mentioned or reported by the usual suspects and eco-experts. Why the big secret? Read more...
Reclamation: The process of returning a disturbed area to its natural state, or to a state suitable for equivalent or superior use or benefit.
AUGUST 2011 UPDATE-
Pioneer Coal's honchos have been flying around Point Aconi in their helicopter a lot lately. In addition to the homes along Forrest Lane they've torched and bulldozed, Pioneer has bought the land on the other side of the NSDNR Crown land and the old federal Devco property near the Point Aconi lighthouse, planning an expansion of their strip mine under DNR's guise of "reclamation" of some old hand dug bootleg crop pits.
|9 June 2011 - The coal pile at the Prince Mine caught fire this morning so they doused it with water and spread it around before it caused spontaneous combustion of the mine site. In the afternoon local residents were shaken by another blast as NSE's Inspector also ignores the trees and hunks or rock crashing down along the shore and the clouds of dust that the coal trucks kick up speeding out the front gate without stopping. The Ministers insist that there's "rigorous governmental oversight committed to the project" and continue to refuse to hold any public meetings or community consultation to address the significant adverse effects of strip mining. Contrary to popular mythology, over 25% of the coal used by NSPI to generate electricity is being strip mined right here in Nova Scotia with a Moratorium on 13 other sites that could be lifted any day now.
MAY 2011 UPDATE
Look what they've done to my land, Ma
Under the disguise of cleaning up old hand dug crop pits they're strip mining over 400,000 tons a year of high polluting coal from coastal Crown forests and wetlands to generate electricity for Nova Scotians and exempted NSPI from mercury emission regulations to allow burning it!
As the noise and the dust and the blasting and the strip mining over 150 feet deep gets closer to people's homes, NSDNR has declared their flagship test case of "reclamation" of Devco's old Prince Mine site a success, but still refuses to hold any local public consultation whatsoever or answer any obvious questions as they prepare to release their new Minerals Strategy for the other coal sites currently under a Moratorium!!!
Contrary to popular mythology that the coal mines were closed years ago and the coal is all gone so NSPI imports all its coal, over 25% of it is being strip mined right here in Nova Scotia, so far. Dozens of Nova Scotians have been driven out of their homes and off their ancestral lands, so far. In addition to strip mining, there are calls for proposals for Coal Gas exploration and development.
But just as clearcutting forests for biomass to generate electricity is considered objectionable by the province's environmental bandwagon but strip mining for coal to generate electricity is not even considered worth mentioning, similarly fracking for shale gas is considered objectionable but fracking for coal gas is considered not worth mentioning either! So check out the facts about what's happening in the coalfields of Nova Scotia for yourself, e.g.:
Excursion 1 – Surface Remediation -
In addition to the mine water problems that the Island is facing, there are surface facilities that have been used by the mining companies and need remediation. Furthermore, waste rock piles and coal residues from wash plants had to be converted to an environmentally sound condition. This field trip will show you how those problems have been managed by the owners of the former mining operations.
APRIL 2011 UPDATE
Now that the snow has melted, you can see that there's all kinds of material from the old waste rock pile at the Prince Mine being buried in the open pits created by strip mining the DNR Crown land under the guise of "reclamation" despite NSE's assurances of compliance with the environmental regulations.
Pioneer has drilled test holes in preparation for strip mining Cranberry Meadow and also turning it into a 150 foot deep open pit this summer under the guise of reclamation of the old Prince Mine site.
Plans to highwall mine out under the ocean were nixed when the miner got stuck and the area along the shore has been filled back in. But the Highwall Miner is back, presumably to highwall mine under the homes along Forrest Lane, and still there is no public information or consultation or homeowners rights. And there was another big blast on April 8th just within the approved ground vibration limits as usual. (Air Concussion 128 dBA, Ground Vibration 12.5 mm/s (0.5 in./sec.) Peak Particle Velocity)
MARCH 2011 UPDATE
Under the government's deceitful guise of "reclamation", Pioneer Coal continues to blast the DNR Crown land at Point Aconi and strip mine the "surface" coal and truck it to NSPI's power plants that have been exempted from emission regulations to create a market for this high mercury, high sulphur coal banned everywhere else years ago. Not much protection for the Bird Islands just offshore at the mouth of the Bras d'Or Lakes either.
After complaints continued there's evidence that NSE's Inspector actually got out of his truck and looked at the waste rock pile being dumped behind the homes on Forest Lane without any testing for contamination or dust control. And after the Inspector was nearly knocked off his feet by the blast NSE has finally installed their own monitor and since then the blasts have been milder. Only took 4 years to get them to do that much!
After 5 years of "reclamation" of the coastal DNR Crown woodlands and wetlands at Point Aconi the only signs of life left are strip miners in their trucks thanks to Cecil Clarke & Co.
|Friday, 10 December 2010 - While Prime Minister Harper and Premier
Dexter were in town to announce funding to dredge Sydney Harbour right next
to the Tar Ponds and plan to use the "dirt" to "reclaim" the land, NSE's
local Monitoring and Compliance Inspector was working after hours on a
Friday to come up with an answer to simple, obvious questions about
spreading the well known contaminated waste rock pile from Devco's old
Prince Mine around the coastal DNR Crown land that they've strip mined
without verifying a word Pioneer Coal claims about no contamination. When
CASM couldn't get straight answers last week we wrote to Environment
Minister Belliveau, so Langille passed the buck. We haven't seen them
digging in the old Raised Rock Pile since. But as soon as no one is looking,
if Pioneer Coal reckons they can get away with something they'll do it.
Unless someone complains, NSE does nothing.
While we can't get in to see Pioneer Coal "surface" mining in the 160 foot deep pit, they can be seen scooping up the topsoil from the DNR Crown land they recently clear cut and trucking it to the pit along the shore that they're now supposedly restoring to a better condition than it was before this "reclamation" project began, without any public information or consultation.
A year after DNR's Dan Khan presented the results of their Reclamation Study at Point Aconi to mining and environmental conferences in Halifax and were congratulated on their success, even more coastal DNR Crown forests and wetlands have been strip mined for high sulphur, high mercury coal to burn at Nova Scotia's power plants and domestic furnaces, and emission regulations thrown out the window to provide a market for it. Why? If they're going to burn domestic high mercury, high sulphur coal anyway, why not get it from Donkin and Stop Strip Mining Cape Breton?! Time to hold their feet to the fire!
|30 November 2010 - Sightings of helicopter landings at the Prince Mine
again! Also observed inside the front fence last week is the soil in the old
toxic waste rock pile from the Prince Mine being loaded into trucks and
dumped on the coastal DNR Crown land they've strip mined under DNR's guise
of "reclamation". As always, NSE's Monitoring & Compliance Inspector is
having difficulty coming up with straight answers to obvious questions about
this well known contaminated dumping ground and the easily observable acid
mine drainage surrounding it. The province's "reclamation" of the Prince is
nothing like Devco's remediation of the Princess Mine, etc. where the old
contaminated waste rock piles were sealed. Out of sight, out of mind will
Also observed last week is Millennium Contracting Services Limited trucking high mercury, high sulphur coal from the Prince Mine site to the new Millenium Coal Yard in Florence, just down the road from the old Franklyn Mine site that Devco just finished remediating for residential use. NSE confirms that no environmental assessment is required for a coal yard in the middle of town, and NSE does not have emission regulations for the burning of coal at a residential dwelling, this is 2010 in the country's cleanest, greenest province after all. Meanwhile, any day now DNR is due to release their new Natural Resources Strategy that congratulates them on their success at "reclamation" at their "flagship test case" in Point Aconi, Cape Breton.
September 2010 - Pioneer Coal blasted the NS DNR Crown land in Point Aconi
again today for high mercury, high sulphur coal banned everywhere else but
cleanest greenest Nova Scotia! And as we continue our walk around the south
side of the Prince Mine property a recent excavation shows that the water
table is just a few inches below the surface at the top of the hill, so look
what's still going on at the bottom of the hill next to the speck of land
Devco remediated last year as part of the Franklyn Project:
Did the international mine water experts on ECBC 's tour of the Prince Mine get to see any of the typical acid mine drainage local residents observe all around the site for 4 years now? It's not mentioned in the guide for the IMWA 2010 Mid-Conference Excursion 2 by ECBC's Joe Shea and David Mayich to the Prince Mine, nor is there any mention of the waste rock pile or any clean up of the Prince property. Instead they claim that "the Pioneer coal Limited mining and reclamation plan has removed the remaining coal in the bootleg areas, thereby eliminating the safety hazard and allowing the land to be made available for future use"!!!
ECBC can't even get something as simple as the year they sold the Prince to Pioneer right, and it's conveniently never mentioned in the province's flawed assessment and approval process of this crime against Point Aconi, their flagship test case that sets the precedent for the rest.
September 2010 - Lo and behold! It only took them a year but NS DNR has
finally posted a copy of its "Study
of Concurrent Reclamation Practices at the Point Aconi Surface Mine"
that they don't dare present to the people of Point Aconi who know they've
been lied to every step of the way and are not impressed. Naturally, DNR's
report neglects to mention that this was healthy DNR Crown woodlands and
wetlands that had never been mined before DNR issued its call for proposals
to destroy it claiming it was dangerous and derelict. For the truth about
the pre-existing conditions that DNR's study deliberately ignores read the
Miller Report and weep because your
community may be next as ECBC divests the rest of Devco's properties by 2012
and the NDP government has said nothing about the Tories moratorium on the
other 13 sites in CBRM.
Notice how DNR's 2009 photo is conveniently cropped so that you don't see how close the blasting and open pit is to the shore of the Atlantic Ocean and Morrison Pond, in violation of every environmental rule in the book that Pioneer Coal has been exempted from every step of the way to this day. And notice how everywhere they excavate mine water accumulates that they've been pumping out for 3 years now, simple observations of the watercourses around the mine site show where to, also in violation of every rule in the book as Nova Scotia's Environment Act etc. proves to be a meaningless document.
12 September 2010 - Why is Pioneer Coal so afraid that they wouldn't let any of the international mine water experts visit the Prince Mine site if a local CASM resident was on the tour bus? The IMWA experts said they were only shown the good stuff but said there has to be acid mine drainage there. CASMs walk along the west side alone of the old Prince Mine property reveals typical signs of acid mine drainage flowing everywhere. The experts laughed when CASM told them the provincial Environment Department insists it's just harmless "orange percipitate".
If your house was downhill from the Prince Mine site, under provincial jurisdiction since Devco conveyed it to Pioneer Coal in 2006, would you be concerned about your domestic well water and what happens when the underground workings reach capacity?!!!. Here in Cape Breton North, who are you going to call, the notorious Site Manager who sits on the anonymous Community Liaison Committee approved by the provincial Environment Department who refuses to allow anyone to set foot on Pioneer Coal's property and never holds any Open Houses or inform the public about this "reclamation" project?
The proceedings of the IMWA 2010 Symposium held at Cape Breton University September 5-9th are online, CASM recommends to our local readers:
- Shea, Joe (ECBC): Innovative Management Techniques to deal with Mine Water Issues in the Sydney Coal Field, Nova Scotia, Canada.
- Wolkersdorfer, Christian (CBU): Tracer Test in A Settling Pond – The Passive Mine Water Treatment Plant of the 1 B Mine Pool, Nova Scotia, Canada
- Younger, Paul: Where There is no pH Meter: Estimating the Acidity of Mine Waters by Visual Inspection
- Liefferink, Mariette; Proactive environmental activism to promote the remediation of mined land and acid mine drainage: a success story from the South African goldfields
September 2010 - It was an historic day in Point Aconi as 100 international
mine water experts attending a conference at CBU were allowed to enter
Pioneer Coal's Prince Mine site for 20 minutes on a tour led by Devco staff.
They were led as far away as possible from any signs of acid mine water
around the waste rock pile and the settling ponds and the portals and the
brooks and the wetlands. In fact, they never set foot on Devco's old Prince
Mine property but on the provincial DNR Crown land that Pioneer is busy
strip mining to supposedly cover the cost of cleaning up the Prince. We
don't know what the experts looked at or what they were told because
yesterday Pioneer's notorious site manager called the organizers and said
that he would not let the bus in if a local CASM resident was on it, so we
had to bow out!!!
30 August 2010 - A gorgeous day for lunch on Tony's Beach was immediately disturbed by an unusual looking helicopter for these parts flying very low around Pioneer Coal's Prince Mine site in Point Aconi, shortly followed by the site manager and some white haired passengers trucking off to lunch at their favourite local restaurant next to the gas station on the Trans Canada Highway. Figuring as much, sure enough a couple of hours later the helicopter came back and landed just inside the front fence to pick up its passengers. Unfortunately, we didn't get a good shot of these royal visitors flying in under everyone's radar screens, and of course no one is saying, but we've heard reports for some time that Pioneer Coal's president John Chisholm often drops by in this fashion to gloat over his "success" at "reclamation" of Point Aconi.
While el Presidente was yucking it up over a view of the Bras d'Or, his Novaminer remains idle for over a year now after the cutting head got stuck underground just as they were about to start highwall mining under the ocean. A truck with a flat front shovel puttered around picking up what's left of the woodlands they clearcut last winter and dumping it on the already strip mined moonscape in a never ending process of "progressive rehabilitation" and supposedly cleaning up the Prince.
The strip mined coal is stockpiled a few kilometers from the protected Bird Islands offshore while typical evidence of acid mine drainage can be seen in the open pit and in nearby brooks that ran clear before John Chisholm came blasting into town and the provincial government exempted this project from every law of the land.
While Nove Scotia's Department of Environment insists that the "orange percipitate" is drinkable water and the only thing wrong with it is aesthetic, all next week 300 delegates from 23 countries will be in Sydney to attend an International Mine Water conference at Cape Breton University. If this was happening in your backyard, who would you believe?!
And now that Premier Dexter has exempted Nova Scotia Power from mercury emission laws until 2014, he has created a market for Cape Breton's high mercury, high sulphur, high chlorine coal banned everywhere else years ago and not even fit to burn in the Point Aconi power plant without wrecking it. So Pioneer Coal has resumed blasting the people out of Forrest Lane with no one representing them, left to fend for themselves against the mining company as it strip mines what was perfectly healthy crown woodlands and wetlands under a DNR Call for Proposals rubber stamped by Environment no questions asked, and trucks 450,000 tonnes a year to NSPI's coal fired plant in Lingan for 3 years now. But you still won't find this inconvenient truth ever mentioned anywhere but here. Why the big secret? If you would like to try some of Cape Breton's highest polluting finest in your own home's coal furnace just drive right up to the weigh scale or call the number on the Coal for Sale signs all over town. What they're not telling anyone won't hurt us, eh?
|29 July 2010 - Cecil Clarke quits before the
inconvenient truth be told?
Point Aconi's MLA and ex-Minister of Energy Cecil Clarke didn't have a warm welcome for CASM sporting a Stop Strip Mining button at his party in Sydney today to announce he's going to quit and run federally. Instead Cecil says he still doesn't want our vote anyway! In his speech Cecil boasted about reopening Donkin but made no mention of his responsibility for the 450,000 tonnes of high mercury, high sulphur coal a year being strip mined at Point Aconi and trucked to Lingan. In keeping with the provincial government's persistent deceit, current Energy Minister Bill Estabrooks doesn't mention it either in his Letter to the Editor in today's Cape Breton Post even though its the real reason they exempted NSPI from mercury emission laws at this time as Friday's blast at Point Aconi and reappearance of coal trucks on the highway goes to show, nothing to do with imported coal at all. It wouldn't be so bad if they told the truth and had a meaningful debate based on facts instead of spin doctored nonsense before passing the amendment to exempt Nova Scotia Power from mercury emission regulations for another 4 years, fat chance of that happening without even the media or NGOs keeping them honest.
DOOMSDAY IN NOVA SCOTIA
Typical of their one digit salute to the people of Nova Scotia as seen from Point Aconi, within minutes of the NDP government announcing that it has exempted Nova Scotia Power’s coal plants from mercury emission regulations, Pioneer Coal delivered a notice to residents of Point Aconi that there will be a blast tomorrow after months of inactivity at their “reclamation” of DEVCO’s old Prince Mine. DEVCO closed its mines 10 years ago partly because Cape Breton's high sulphur, high mercury, high chlorine coal was unfit to burn and already banned in many countries and states, so NSPI began importng clean coal.
Throwing 300 years of knowledge and experience and scientific facts and international standards for coal mining and air and water pollution out the window, Darrell Dexter’s spineless NDP government has exempted Nova Scotia Power from mercury emission regulations for another 4 years to offset a proposed rate increase they claim is suddenly required to import cleaner coal.
Still missing from any news reports and editorials is the fact that Pioneer Coal has been strip mining high mercury, high sulphur coal from Point Aconi and trucking 1,500 to 1,800 tonnes a day (450,000 tonnes a year) to NSPI’s Lingan generating station for 3 years now, and never mention Stellarton!!! So why haven’t NSPI’s rates gone down instead of up??????
To claim that NSPI has to raise rates now because
of the cost of importing coal is nonsense, to swallow such propaganda hook
line and sinker is outrageously irresponsible at best. To shove it down our
throats as if “no is not an option” even before NSPI presents its evidence
to the Utility Review Board is offensive, and indicative of they way things
really work in Nova Scotia despite 250 years of “democracy” regardless of
which party is in power. Blasting Point Aconi to smithereens is indicative
of their shameful attitude towards the people of Nova Scotia being adversely
affected by the government's deceitful decision and left to fend for
themselves while the mining mafia laugh all the way to the bank and nimby
environmentalists congratulate them on their "success" at "reclamation".
|2 JUNE 2010 - It doesn't take a science degree
to determine the inconvenient truth! You can believe DNR and Pioneer Coal's
claims of their "success" at "reclamation" of Crown land in Point Aconi, or
you can believe your own eyes:
2010 UPDATE - Four years ago the province's Natural Resources and
Environment Ministers toured the Point Aconi site and Premier MacDonald flew
over the area. At a Tory caucus retreat in Baddeck in April 2006 they
announced a "Reclamation Study" by a panel of experts "to ensure the best
management practices are employed at all surface mining sites in the
future". Last fall DNR's Dan Kahn gave presentations of their Reclamation
Study at mining and environmental conferences in Halifax but has never
presented it to the people of Cape Breton whose well founded concerns
initiated the study in the first place. No wonder!
Dan Khan's "Study of concurrent reclamation practices at the Point Aconi Surface Mine" says Pioneer Coal "deserves recognition for its efforts in coal mining, and in particular rehabilitation because of the responsible manner in which it conducts business"! And an article in this month's Canadian Mining Journal titled "Coal mine fits right in with the community" describes DNR's twisted version of events at Stellarton and Point Aconi! What we see with our own eyes tells a very different story as photos of Point Aconi go to show:
"Last year the Department of Natural Resources and Pioneer Coal began collaborating by documenting procedures being employed at the mine. Pioneer Coal has allowed access to the mine site to document the reclamation practices employed and to conduct vegetation surveys of pre-existing conditions and post-reclamation conditions."
"Preparations for removing and transplanting the existing vegetation consisted of clearing existing trees from the forest by using a tree shredder/ chipper. All larger trees were felled and chipped in place to conserve the organic matter available for reclamation."
"Following tree clearing, the forest floor (organic layer) was grubbed off with an excavator and loaded into dump trucks. Loaded dump trucks travelled to areas previously prepared for reclamation and discharged their loads."
"The materials were then spread with another excavator and a ground-cover depth of over 30 cm was generally achieved. The excavator operator attempted to place stumps in an upright position while covering the previously graded surfaces to encourage new tree growth. The work was conducted in winter months when plants were dormant."
"The second method used at the site was to remove large 'shrub-clumps' and transport them to a reclamation area immediately following excavation. Shrub clumps were transported using the loader and placed on the surface in a relatively intact condition without disturbing roots and surface soil structure. The clumps were placed tightly together to essentially cover all the ground. This work was done last summer."
"The third method used at the site was a variation of the shrub-clump transplanting technique. The primary change was that the shrub-clumps were not placed tightly together; instead the clumps were placed in a plantation pattern with areas remaining between the clumps. The plantation approach allows larger reclamation areas to be treated with 'islands' of native vegetation, with the expectation that the vegetation will spread from the transplanted vegetation clumps. This work was done last fall."
March 17, 2010 edition of the Cape Breton Post has a full page article on
“Coming Clean: A look at environmental cleanups underway across Cape Breton
as region makes transition from industrial and resource-based economy". It
subtly describes the “remediation” and “clean up” of the Tar Ponds and Coke
Ovens, Devco’s federally regulated mine sites that are being “remediated”
and “cleaned up” by 2012, and Pioneer Coal’s “reclamation” of the Prince
Mine site at Point Aconi under “supervision” of the provincial Department of
Environment’s Inspector Brad Langille who admits it’s really
classic surface mine operation” that “has been hauling on average
1,500-1,800 tonnes of coal per day off-site”, and is “progressing quite well
but that’s not to say what the future will bring”!!! Langille claims there’s
not as much coal as they hoped “due to previous bootleg operations on the
site”, but the report fails to mention that now that the 2010 emission
regulations have kicked in, NSPI has refused to buy anymore of Pioneer’s
high polluting coal. With no market for the coal, blasting and strip mining
Point Aconi has come to a standstill, and the “remediation” and “clean up”
of Devco’s Prince Mine property and restoration of the 55 hectares of DNR
crown woodlands and wetlands that have been destroyed under the provincial
government’s deceitful and unsustainable “reclamation” process, has yet to
even begin, and won't any time soon!
“I can assure the House, in regards to Point Aconi, that my department has dealt with their requests and we are putting conditions on them… that will result in appropriate remediation and, if it doesn't happen, we will be demanding it from them.”
- Ex-Environment Minister Mark Parent in the House of Assembly,
Meanwhile, the Environment Minister who had the power and the reasons to put a stop to this heartbreaking and hurtful destruction before it began but refused to listen to anyone at all except his anonymous Community Liaison Committee, Mark Parent has been given the 2010 Eco-hero award for environmental political will by the Nova Scotia Environment Network in Halifax!!!
March 2010 - Predictably, now that there's no market for high polluting coal
from John Chisholm's "surface" mine in Point Aconi, "reclamation" of the
Prince Mine Site has come to a standstill and PIONEER COAL HOLDINGS LIMITED
has ducked for cover by changing their name to 2131993 NOVA SCOTIA LIMITED.
While Devco and Xstrata have no problem holding Open Houses and Public
Meetings and getting media coverage informing the public about their mine
sites, DNR and Pioneer Coal are still no where to be seen or heard, and
there's still no media coverage of their dirty secret at Point Aconi.
Under the deceitful disguise of "reclamation" of "dangerous" hand dug crop pits on supposedly "derelict" DNR Crown land at the mouth of the Bras d'Or Lakes , there's now over 100 acres of strip mined moonscape with a huge open pit and typical evidence of acid mine drainage accumulating in it despite NSE's state of denial of its existence:
Now what? No doubt more of the same old, same old that happened at all the other sites in DNR's "Reclamation Study" that they still haven't presented to the people of CBRM whose well founded concerns initiated the study in the first place!
|“The Point Aconi site is just
pocked with open bootleg pits from the last two centuries… It 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.”- Ex-Natural Resources
Minister David Morse in the House of Assembly,
28 February 2010 – After three years of Pioneer Coal clearcutting and
strip mining and blasting Point Aconi to smithereens and trucking the high
sulphur, high mercury coal to Lingan as fast as possible before the 2010
emission regulations kicked in, NSDNR is boasting that “reclamation” of
their “flagship test case” is a “success” while Pioneer's flatbed trucks
have been seen removing equipment from the Prince Mine site, and we hear
that the NS Environment Department is saying there’s no more coal, and Nova
Scotia Power is saying they can’t burn it without frigging up the boilers.
If that’s their way of saving face and finally putting a stop to strip
February 2010 – Now that the new provincial government won’t exempt Nova
Scotia Power from emission regulations, Xstrata held another public meeting
last week to announce that they will focus on mining coking coal at Donkin’s
way out under the sea mine that “will likely be sold to markets in Europe,
South America, India and China” once they find them and the investors and
load it onto a barge to transport to large ships, none of which is about to
happen any time soon.
The legacy of washing Cape Breton coal at Victoria Junction and burning it at the Sydney Steel Plant’s Coke Ovens are there for all to see who dare to look at the well known facts and costs to society, and learn the lessons of history instead of irresponsibly repeating them, here or abroad.
While the media are proclaiming that “King Coal” is back they have still never, ever reported that Pioneer has been strip mining high sulphur, high mercury coal from its Prince Mine site at Point Aconi and trucking it to NSPI’s power plant in Lingan for over two and half years now.
Since August 2007, Pioneer Coal has run eight coal trucks x 35 tonnes x 4 2 hr trips/day = 1060 tonnes/day x 650 days = 690,000 tonnes of high sulphur, high mercury coal so far to NSPI’s Lingan power plant, not counting the times Pioneer Coal trucked 12hrs x 6 days a week as fast as possible before the 2010 emission regulations kicked in. That’s double the amount of thermal coal Xstrata originally planned to mine per year at Donkin but couldn't find a market for. If you see one of these trucks on the highway around Sydney they’re still hauling Point Aconi's high polluting coal to Lingan despite what they say about Donkin’s coal being unfit to burn at NSPI's power plants. Why the double standard?
February – Now that NSPI says they can’t burn Donkin’s high sulphur, high
mercury coal, according to rumours they’re not trucking Point Aconi’s strip
mined high sulphur, high mercury high chlorine coal to Lingan anymore but
mixing it with petcoke and burning it at the Point Aconi powerplant where it
was never fit to burn before and one of the reasons the Prince Mine was
closed in the first place. We also hear that Pioneer has started digging in
the toxic waste rock pile at the Prince Mine that they plan to bury in the
pit they’ve dug on the DNR Crown land without any of the environmental
assessment or sealing that Devco did at the Princess Mine and other
properties in the area, and would have done at the Prince Mine if it hadn't
been sold to Pioneer Coal and now under provincial jurisdiction where mining
companies do whatever they want with impunity and nothing has changed over
the centuries, as Pioneer's strip mine at Point Aconi goes to show every
step of the way:
When CASM went to take a look and dared to walk 20 feet inside the front gate to take a picture, our dear old friend Site Manager Michael Jessome showed up but refrained from spinning his wheels. Instead he closed the gates and said we couldn’t leave because he “locks animals up here”! When we offered to call the police for him he climbed in his truck and drove into the mine site, leaving half the gate closed. This is the person NSE expects the public to call if we have any questions or complaints! There was no sign of any other trucks going in or out, nor working in the waste rock pile. Pioneer was bulldozing down trees and trucking the debris to the hill near the entrance. And another blast is scheduled for 5pm February 9, 2010! Why? What if it was you and your family being blasted and undermined out of your home?
1 January 2010 - Happy New Year!
We’ve been hearing through the grapevine for months that Pioneer Coal was laying off its workers at Point Aconi at the end of the year and would clean up and move out, but we’ll believe it when we see it.
Simple observation shows that Point Aconi continues to be Nova Scotia’s unmentionable dirty secret as Pioneer’s axemen can be seen clearcutting even more woodlands and wetlands next to the cranberry bog, and continues to truck the high sulphur “surface” coal from a huge open pit on the DNR Crown land to Lingan as fast as possible, while the estimated $6 million clean up of the Prince Mine property alone remains mostly untouched.
In stark contrast to Pioneer Coal and its anonymous Community Liaison Committee who remain nowhere to be seen or heard in public, Xstrata held a public meeting on December 18th to inform the community on the status of their Donkin coal mine project and confirm the talk of the town for months. Donkin is not going ahead because there is no market for Donkin’s high sulphur coal, especially now that the January 1st 2010 emission regulations came into effect and Nova Scotia Power could be fined $500,000.00 a day for violating them. But no one ever dares mention the high sulphur, high mercury, high chlorine, high ash Point Aconi coal they’ve been strip mining and burning at Lingan for over two years now in defiance of every document on record. Why the big secret?
Despite the Tories’ talk of being clean and green and Alfie MacLeod’s award for stopping strip mining in his riding, on 4 November 2009 he introduced a private members bill to exempt Nova Scotia Power from the emissions regulations for 4 years for the sake of some jobs at Donkin. Evidently that’s what the Regressive Conservatives did at Point Aconi and would have done at Donkin and the other proposed coal mine sites across CBRM if the people of Nova Scotia hadn’t exercised their democratic rights and voted them out of office in last June’s election. The new NDP government says they will not grant the exemption. And so it should be, and should have been in the first place if Nova Scotia is to be part of the solution instead of the problem. The lessons from over 300 years of coal mining history in Cape Breton to today’s multi-ziillion dollar$ cleanup of the tar ponds and coke ovens in beautiful downtown Sydney and Devco’s cleanup of the surrounding mine sites ought to have been learned by now and put to good use.
Instead, Nova Scotia’s Department of Natural Resources continues to give propaganda presentations in Halifax boasting of their “sucess” stories of “reclamation” of old mine sites in Stellarton and Point Aconi while the people being adversely affected by strip mining in their communities are ignored by DNR’s promoters and the Environment Department responsible for regulating the mines, so residents of Stellarton have put their lives on the line and filed a law suit against Pioneer Coal. From what lawyers have told us, if they loose they could end up paying Pioneer’s costs, which is why CASM didn’t do it.
From our experience in Point Aconi and across the region, we know what the people living near the strip mine in Stellarton are dealing with, and what they’re up against, and wish to extend our support in fighting for their rights, and for everyone in Nova Scotia. Without drastic changes to the assessment and approval and monitoring and compliance processes, what’s happening in Point Aconi and Stellarton could happen anywhere in Nova Scotia where there are mineral or aggregate resources and the money and machines and political will to mine them, even from right under your house!
If it was your house being mined under or blasted to smithereens, who can you call? In our third-world like province there is no one protecting the rights of the people, in Sellarton affected residents have had to take matters into their own hands while DNR continues to promote its twisted version of events and NSE passes the buck around and around.
In a 2 January 2010 article about Premier Darrell Dexter’s interview with the Cape Breton Post, he says that “The decisions that get made in government will be made on the best information, the best evidence that we have, so that people… will be able to understand what it was based on”, and there is always room for improvement.
They could start by at least enforcing the first Terms and Conditions of Approval requiring Pioneer Coal to inform the public about the details of their project at Point Aconi. And DNR has been asked to give their presentation on Point Aconi here and see if it flies, or at the very least post it on their website or issue a press release, but so far no, nothing. Meanwhile DNR’s Voluntary Planning Committee has been asking environmental groups in Halifax who’ve seen the presentation on “Concurrent Reclamation Practices at the Point Aconi Surface Coal Mine” to support DNR’s “success”. Take a trip along Sherie Lee Lane and judge for yourself before this destructive and irresponsible practice is allowed to spread into your backyard!
|27 September 2009 - KABOOM! There was another powerfull blast on Friday
as Pioneer Coal continues to rape and pillage the DNR Crown land at Point
Aconi as fast as possible under the pretext of cleaning up Devco's old
Prince Mine. After CASM posted photos of the mud flowing down their man made
hill, a sloped road has been carved into the side of it. At the top of the
hill of DNR's reclaimed woodlands and wetlands is a pond of water. At the
other side of the site, water continues to percolate out of the ground and
flow into Coal Hollow Brook, but so long as no one asks and they don't tell,
what no one knows won't hurt us, eh? Meanwhile, cleanup of Devco's old
Princess Mine in Sydney Mines is on schedule for completion this fall. "A
plastic liner is being used to cover the waste rock pile. Once the liner is
in place, the area will be covered with topsoil, seeded and transformed into
a park-like setting with walking trails." There's no such plan at Pioneer's
Prince. The "flagship test case" at Point Aconi of what to do with Devco's
coal rights and properties that was a "no is not an option" "done deal"
behind closed doors before the public found out about it is an example of
what can still happen anywhere, the local residents and communities have no
rights, no say, no seat at the table.
September 2009 - After 3 years of "reclamation" at DNR's "flagship test case", and a Reclamation Study by their panel of experts, and Terms of Conditions of Approval that requires a review of Pioneer's project after 3 years, there's no sign of any public information or consultation from the usual suspects. Instead, what was a flat coastal Crown woodland and rare wetlands is now a huge hill higher than the hydro poles with some grubbings dumped on it. We hear that the Novaminer got stuck just when they were about to start highwall mining under the ocean so that's been nixed! Pioneer wasted no time covering up the holes they've created under the pretext of cleaning up old hand dug crop pits. The pit Pioneer excavated next to the Prince Mine Road that was filled in after CASM complained of acid mine drainage has been excavated again, presumably in preparation for highwall mining under the homes on Forrest Lane.
August 2009 update – Three days after extending the moratorium on
“reclamation” of the other 13 sites across CBRM for another three years the
MacDonald government fell on a confidence vote and was relegated to 3rd
party status in a historic June 9, 2009 election of an NDP majority
government in Nova Scotia. Point Aconi’s Regressive Conservative MLA Cecil
Clarke (right) was re-elected by the seat of his pants aided by his
significant other campaign manager Kirk MacRae (left) and hasn’t been seen
days after the election Environment’s Inspector Langille called a
complainant of the previous week’s blast and was an entirely different
person than we’ve been dealing with for the past 3 years. There hasn’t been
a blast since, and he arranged for us to get a copy of the blast reports
without having to go through FOIPOP. Since “reclamation” of the “Prince Mine
site” began there have been 46 blasts all near the maximum allowable
concussion and vibration levels
under the Tory government’s false pretext of cleaning up old hand dug crop
pits on coastal DNR Crown land that has never been mined before, Pioneer
Coal has blasted and excavated a huge 160 foot deep pit and has been
creating more holes as it highwall mines under the land and under the ocean
and nearby homes for high sulphur “surface” coal as fast as they can before
the 2010 emission targets are enforced and there's no legal market for the
high polluting coal.
Under the Tory government’s guise of “progressive rehabilitation”, under the direction of NSE's anonymous Community Liaison Committee that holds secret meetings and submitted a secret land use plan to the government, a huge stockpile of various materials excavated from the “Prince Mine site” higher than the tree tops has been covered with soil and some clumps of vegetation dug up from somewhere else and dumped on what was a rare peat bog forest full of all kinds of wildlife and rare plants before the government’s “clean up” began.
A treasure trove of 350 million year old fossils being excavated during the process that rivals Joggins is being laid to waste while the local first class fossil center in Sydney Mines, that attracts visitors from across the continent, is denied funding or access to the site because MLA Cecil Clarke wants to turn the museum into a call centre.
Point Aconi is a prime example of the Tories legacy of “sustainability” and “environmental goals” that bring “economic prosperity” for their friends in the mining industry and undermine any other development for decades to come.
DNR’s Scott Swindon has finally agreed to another meeting with Nova Scotia’s environmental groups to discuss, among other things, “sustainability” and “reclamation” using a “critical thinking process”, but still won't admit it's mining!
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