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February 17, 2006
Morgan wants review of strip mine sites
Pioneer Coal continues to work on approval for Point Aconi

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 juris. diction 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."

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