The National Farmers Union in New Brunswick has expressed concerns after the provincial government requested proposals for potash exploration in the Salt Springs and Cassidy Lakes areas.
“The first [concern] is that the exploration and potential resource extraction would take place on unceded and unsurrendered Indigenous territory,” said Suzanne Fournier, executive director of the group, in an interview with the NB Media Co-op.
She said Indigenous people should have stewardship over those lands.
The request for proposals covers 26,350 hectares of privately-owned land in the area southeast of Norton.
Check out the full interview:
A provincial news release stated that the “request for proposals is for exploration only. If no satisfactory proposals are received, exploration rights will not be issued.”
The National Farmers Union, however, argues that exploration will hurt farmers and farmland, even if there’s no use of heavy equipment.
“So for example, someone doing exploration could drive their vehicle, which is not considered heavy equipment, through a blueberry field, which would be incredibly damaging, they could leave the gate open and let livestock out,” Fournier said.
“There are lots of potential harms there. And then the other piece that we’re really concerned about is just losing more productive agricultural land to something like resource extraction. Currently, we’re losing a lot of productive land to suburban sprawl. And farmers are then forced to clear forested or other land in order to, you know, keep up their farm production.”
Fournier said potash exploration would damage the farmlands, increase air pollution, and affect water biodiversity.
While potash exploration might be an essential mineral for Canada’s economic growth, Fournier believes that the government should explore industries that do not have a long-term impact on the environment.
“If we get to a point where we can give Indigenous people the stewardship, they may have ideas and suggestions that we haven’t thought of, for a strong New Brunswick economy that doesn’t remove our resources,” she said.
Arun Budhathoki is a journalist with the NB Media Co-op. This project has been made possible in part by the Government of Canada, administered by the Canadian Association of Community Television Stations and Users (CACTUS).