13 November 2008
Mining may matter in Nova Scotia, but so does the environment, says Tamara Lorincz , executive director of the Nova Scotia Environment Network.
Ms. Lorincz said Wednesday that the recent Mining Matters conference in Halifax ignored the industry’s environmental and social impacts.
"We think it’s a missed opportunity," she said in an interview. "There was no framework on mining and sustainability."
The conference, hosted by the provincial Natural Resources Department, included presentations by Nova Scotia mining companies on their various projects in the province, in other parts of Canada and around the world.
The network’s mining caucus, which expressed concern about a lack of environmental content at last year’s conference, sent a letter to the Natural Resources Department in August asking to be included this year, but the request was turned down.
The caucus represents a dozen environmental and community groups including the Ecology Action Centre, the Sierra Club of Canada, Citizens Against Strip Mining, the Avon Peninsula Watershed Preservation Society, West Annapolis Valley Ecological Society and Eastern Shore Forest Watch.
"We asked for 15 minutes but were told the agenda was set," said Ms. Lorincz, who said the agenda wasn’t posted on the department website at that time.
Jocelyne Rankin, water co-ordinator with the Ecology Action Centre, said the conference should have addressed mining-related issues like groundwater contamination and suggested that more government oversight of the industry is needed.
"There’s a lack of enforcement," she said in an interview. "There needs to be more awareness of environmental issues."
Gretchen Fitzgerald of the Sierra Club’s Atlantic chapter called for a more collaborative and ecological approach to mining in Nova Scotia.
"The mining application and environmental assessment processes need to be improved so that communities can be better informed of mining operations happening in their area," she said in a release.
Mike MacDonald, the department’s director of geological services, said the conference — which focused this year on mining in today’s markets — showcases what is going on in the industry. But he said it doesn’t ignore environmental and social issues.
"There was mention in a number of presentations about things concerned with the environment and community engagement," he said in an interview.
Mr. MacDonald, who said he understood that the network’s request to participate in the conference came late, said the keynote address on mineral exploration by Glenn Nolan, a vice-president of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada, touched on environmental, social and aboriginal issues. Mr. Nolan is chief of the Missanabie Cree First Nation in Ontario.