Sussex – Several people from Penobsquis and their supporters gathered at the All Seasons Inn in Sussex today, March 14th for the first day of Mining Commissioner Hearings. Twenty-six residents of Penobsquis have filed a complaint against Potash Corporation with the Mining Commissioner. The complaint alleges that the company’s operations have damaged their properties. They are seeking compensation for the damage.
Beth Nixon, a member of the Concerned Citizens of Penobsquis and a key complaintant and witness in the case against PotashCorp was not able to attend due to a family emergency. The hearing largely dealt with procedural matters and ended with both parties agreeing to restart the hearings again in May.
The Penobsquis residents are arguing that about 60 homes in the area lost their drinking water supply shortly after water began flooding the potash mine and PotashCorp and Corridor Resources completed rounds of seismic testing. For five years, from 2004 to 2009, people in the community were supplied with water while they fought and waited for a new community water system.
Affected members of the community believe that it is ultimately the inflow of 1,300 gallons of water per minute into the Potash mine, and its subsequent removal by pipeline and trucking, that has resulted in the loss of their well water; the subsidence (the sinking of land and buildings) that is now affecting their homes; and the stress and grief they endure every day.
The citizens will attempt to prove PotashCorp’s responsibility and seek damages for water loss, property subsidence, suffering as a result of dust, noise and light pollution, lost property values, and stress. PotashCorp continues to deny any responsibility, their lawyer challenging the group of citizens to “prove it”, at a prehearing in November.
“We do believe it is obvious the water going into their mine has drained our wells,” said Nixon. “It seems we are expected to lose what we’ve invested and incur additional costs for damages inflicted by industry. We want to see standards set which would ensure mining companies are held accountable for the damage they cause.”
Nixon says she doesn’t want her ordeal to happen to others. “If PotashCorp is not held accountable this could happen in any other community. It may not be a potash mine, but there are many proposed and ongoing projects in the province, and all have associated risks. We are not pushing to stop business from happening. We only want to ensure that these projects provide compensation if they cause damage to individuals,” said Nixon.
“The residents of Penobsquis are just trying to live their lives and are now forced to pay the burden and the cost of proving a large powerful corporation has taken away their water, ruined their properties and their quality of life. The cards are stacked against them and our government has not required the company to take any responsibility,” said Stephanie Merrill, CCNB’s Freshwater Protection Coordinator.
CCNB supports them, and their battle, as do many other community organizations in New Brunswick, the Atlantic Region and across Canada.
Ramsey Hart, Program Director at Mining Watch Canada, based in Ottawa, commends and supports the citizens of Penobsquis in their fight against PotashCorp. “The company, which is making huge profits off of public resources, must be held accountable for the social, economic and ecological impacts of its operation,” said Hart.
The Concerned Citizens of Penobsquis are supported by: Belledune Citizens Committee; Campaign for Pesticide Reduction; CCNB; Falls Brook Centre; Friends of Mount Carleton Provincial Park; Grand Lake Watershed Guardians; Mining Watch Canada; PANE – for a new perspective on energy; Quality of Life Initiative; Saint John Chapter, Council of Canadians; Sierra Club Canada – Atlantic Canada Chapter; Students for Sustainability; Sustainable Energy Group (SEG) in Woodstock.