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April 26, 2006
Lobster fishers blame strip mine for falling stocks

LITTLE POND - More than 100 opponents of strip mining from across Cape Breton joined local fishermen, Tuesday, to protest the application by Cape Crushing for a permit to extract about 5,500 tonnes of coal from the Merritt Point site in Little Pond.

Lobster fisherman Keith Boutilier, whose property on Beechview Drive borders the mine site, said strip mining has already affected the fishing grounds.

"I used to have 100 lobster traps in the cove across from that mine site, last year I had 11," Boutilier said. "It's been about a year since Brogan's were strip mining on that site. The environmental study done on the adjacent site several years ago shouldn't apply to this site now under Cape Crushing."

The fishermen contend that silt from the strip mining operation kills the kelp and, as a result, ruins the fishing grounds.

"This doesn't just affect fishermen in Point Aconi or Alder Point, it affects everybody in Area 27 from Main-a Dieu to Cape North. There is no way to correct this now, but at least put in armour stone and stop the erosion, stop strip mining altogether. I don't want any permits issued for strip mining in Little Pond or anywhere else on this island."

Fishermen Blair Jessome, who fishes out of Point Aconi, said strip mining doesn't just have an adverse effect on the fishery, but also on the farming industry.

"How can they justify about 15 jobs as opposed to about 300 or more (jobs) in the fishing and farming. The bottom is just starting to come back in Point Aconi for lobster and they want to start strip mining again; it can't happen."

Protester Lillian MacLeod of the Concerned Citizens of Middle River, said the process is wrong and has to change.

"We are all working together, groups from all over the island (are) working to protect the environment and this is going to only make us stronger."

A camera crew from CBC's Land & Sea will spend the week in Cape Breton doing an episode on strip mining.

"We were in communication with Land & Sea officials, but it was their decision to tackle this issue," said Earl Cantwell, a member of Citizens Against Strip Mining. "We're pleased they are looking at the overall issue of strip mining and how it is impacting the community."

Cantwell is hopeful the Land & Sea crew will focus on water and how it affects the lifestyle of Boularderie Island.

"Almost everyone is on a well. The large farming operations certainly can't replace water at a whim. Having Land & Sea here gives the issue more exposure."

There is an application before the Department of Environment and Labour by Cape Crushing to strip-mine about 5,500 tonnes of coal from the site.

According to environment officials, the environmental assessment completed a number of years ago by Cape Crushing for its Alder Point site also extends into the adjacent Merritt Point site in Little Pond.

"We've asked for additional information from the applicant to give a clearer understanding of concerns regarding erosion," said Lawrehce MacDonald, Department of Environment and Labour:, regional manager, monitoring compliance division. "Hopefully out of that we can draw some conclusions: This is all part of the early process where concerns have been identified. Once we have'additional information, we'll certainly involve the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. At present, we don't have that information."

It is up-to the applicant - Cape Crushing - to provide the Department of Environment and Labour with information on erosion concerns. The company is tinder a court order to complete the reclamation of the Merritt Point site by the end of 'June.

The court order doesn't exempt the company from moving forward to try to gain permission from the regulatory agencies to go after the extraction of approximately 5,500 tonnes of coal.

"There is a lot of work that has to be done by the company before any permit is granted.

"Before we will move forward w-ith any kind of an assessment, we have to be sure we have adequate information and have gone back to the company for clarification and additional information."

Citizens Against Strip Mining will hold a public meeting. Tuesday, May 2, at 7 p.m. at the Millvie Community Centre to update the members on the group's progress in its fight to stop strip mining.

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