Fredericton – A coalition Indigenous leaders, scientists and conservationists joined forces on Feb. 27 to protest the Trudeau government’s move to allow Northcliff’s Sisson mine project to use two fish-bearing brooks as dumping grounds for its toxic waste.
The public has until March 18 to comment on the federal government proposal to list parts of Bird Brook and the West Branch of Napadogan Brook on Schedule 2. If the government adds these brooks to Schedule 2, an amendment to the Metal Mining and Diamond Effluent Regulations of the Fisheries Act, the brooks will no longer enjoy environmental protections and can be used for Sisson’s mine waste.
Lawrence Wuest, an ecologist and resident of the Upper Nashwaak Watershed, noted that, “this recent recommendation by Environment and Climate Change Canada, and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to permit destruction of 16 km of fish-bearing streams in the Upper Nashwaak Watershed in order to facilitate the Sisson Mine Project is not only contrary to good science, but the decision also ignores currently recommended best practices in the mining industry.”
“The decision fails to consider the consequences of the demonstrably bad business case associated with this venture. The inevitable financial failure of this mine will leave the province with an environmental mess and unmanageable cleanup bill for decades to come,” added Wuest.
The proposal to sacrifice the brooks for Sisson’s mine faced widespread local opposition during a public meeting in Stanley last year.
Lois Corbett, the Conservation Council of New Brunswick’s Executive Director, said that it is important for people to continue to participate in public processes and is encouraging the public to reiterate their calls to the federal government to protect the Nashwaak’s fish-bearing brooks by sending letters through the Conservation Council’s website during the public comment period.
The federal government has done a disservice to the public by failing to conduct a rigorous scientific assessment of alternative technologies for managing the mine’s waste, according to Peter Toner, President of the Nashwaak Watershed Association.
“The mine will be forever. The mine’s waste will have to be managed forever,” said Nathan Wilbur, a geomorphic engineer with the Atlantic Salmon Federation, who is opposed to the mine’s risky waste disposal and considers the fish habitat compensation plans to be insufficient. The Nashwaak River is home to the endangered Atlantic salmon, American eel and other fish.
“The Nashwaak River is important to the lives of so many people. If the tailings dam fails, there is no recovery from this type of destruction as we have seen in the Mount Polley disaster. No amount of money will ever be enough to pay for the destruction of our watershed,” said Earl Brewer, a local businessman, philanthropist and native of Greenhill, a community near the proposed Sisson mine site.
Ron Tremblay, Wolastoq Grand Council Chief, and Wolastoq Grandmother Ramona Nicholas showed the medicines that will be affected by the Sisson mine project: sweetgrass, cedar and ash.
Kenneth Francis with Elsipogtog’s Kopit Lodge supports the Wolastoq Nation in opposing the Sisson mine. He calls the mine “an abrogation of Indigenous Title and Rights. We say no to the abuse of the habitat of our finned brothers and sisters and all our other relations that will be put at risk by this project due to the design of the tailings pond and the plan to allow devastation of these two brooks, which feed into the Nashwaak rivershed and from there into the St. John or Wolastoq River.”
“Water moves and flows through deep aquifers, springs, bogs, brooks, marshes, lakes, rivers and into the ocean tides throughout Wolastokuk our homeland. Water is life!” said Tremblay.
This article was produced with the support of RAVEN – Rural Action and Voices for the Environment.
Tracy Glynn is a doctoral researcher with RAVEN and editorial board member of the NB Media Co-op.