On April 3, 2018, a National Consultation was held on an application by Northcliff Resources to dump metal mining effluent from the proposed Sisson Mine into fish bearing streams in the Upper Nashwaak Watershed. The consultation was hosted by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO). At the consultation, Northcliff consultant Knight-Piésold invoked the Water Classification Regulation of New Brunswick’s Clean Water Act to maintain that lakes in the Upper Nashwaak were immune from consideration as sites for disposal of metal mining effluent.
Under questioning by several Stanley Area residents, at least eight high ranking personnel of the NB Department of Environment and Local Government (DELG) remained in stunned silence when challenged to explain how the same Water Classification Regulation, resolutely maintained as unenforceable for 15 years, could now be invoked to assure immunity of the province’s lakes to the dumping of mining effluent.
Sisson Project Manager for the province, Lee Swanson, of DELG, claimed that the province’s newly proposed water strategy would assure protection of the province’s lakes in the future. However, Swanson was unable to explain how the existing regulation’s lack of legal authority to protect the province’s pristine fish bearing streams, could simultaneously be invoked to protect the province’s lakes. The contradiction was not lost on those participating in the consultation, including representatives of ECCC and DFO.
The revelation coming out of the consultation is that the province’s lakes are vulnerable to metal mining waste disposal for the foreseeable future. Water Classification has been declared dead, and legislation on the province’s new water strategy is years away, requiring a new round of data collection and consultation. Unless the province acts quickly, it would appear that any mining company can legally apply to dump metal mining effluent into the province’s lakes, and the province lacks the legal authority to prevent it.
Lawrence Wuest is an ecologist and environmental health advisor based in Stanley, NB.