Fredericton – The Mount Polley gold and copper mine tailings disaster in British Columbia has struck a chord with residents around the proposed Sisson open-pit tungsten and molybdenum mine near Stanley, about 30 km north of Fredericton.
A mine tailings breach at Imperial Gold’s Mount Polley mine site on August 5th spilled an estimated 5 million cubic metres of mine waste into the Fraser River Basin. Residents near Likely, BC, are worried about the environmental and health impacts of the spill. Dead fish and green water have been found downstream from the spill.
Lawrence Wuest, a resident of Stanley who has been working on revealing the impacts of the proposed Sisson mine and tailings pond, put together a table comparing the features of the tailings dams of the Mount Polley mine and the proposed Sisson mine. Stephanie Merrill, Freshwater Protection Program Director with the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, created an image that has been shared widely on social media since being posted on August 5.
According to Wuest, if such a tailings breach were to occur at the Sisson mine, the volume could be four times more than that spilled at the Mount Polley site; 20 million cubic metres.
Both Wuest and Merrill note that the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) by the Sisson mine developer, Northcliff Resources, ignored calls for an assessment of a possible tailings breach into the Nashwaak River.
“The saddest part of the situation is that the New Brunswick Departments of Health and Environment are relying on the expertise in the Department of Energy and Mines to advise them on these matters. Given the sad performance of the personnel from Energy and Mines at the Penobsquis Mine Hearings, and given the refusal of their personnel and Minister to face the reality that shale gas is an uneconomic proposition and an environmental disaster, these highly paid poobahs cannot be relied upon, or trusted to give anything resembling objective advice in the evaluation of the costs versus the benefits of Sisson,” says Wuest.
“Unfortunately, we have here a Department, Minister and Government desperate to justify their existence through promotion of an ill-advised and uneconomic mining project, at the expense of the citizens and environment of this province,” adds Wuest.
Fredericton residents are also expressing concern on the potential impact of a taillings breach on the province’s capital city.
“Fredericton’s drinking water could be compromised if a similar tailings pond breach occurred at the proposed Sisson mine. Our aquifer is fed via ‘windows’ in the river sediment, one of which is at the base of the Nashwaak River where it flows into the Saint John River,” says Mark D’Arcy with the Fredericton Chapter of the Council of Canadians.
The Chapter has asked the company repeatedly to hold a public meeting for the citizens of Fredericton, but to no avail. “With the disaster unfolding in British Columbia, this issue must be addressed by Fredericton City Council. Such large mining projects using liquid tailing ponds are inherently unsafe,” argues D’Arcy.