St. Mary’s River Assoc. opposes proposed gold mine

By Rob Wolf    

SHERBROOKE – During the Municipality of St. Mary’s regular monthly council meeting on Oct. 9, Scott Beaver, President of the St. Mary’s River Assoc. made a presentation regarding Atlantic Gold’s proposed mine site on Cochrane Hill, roughly 14kms from Sherbrooke.

During his presentation, Beaver expressed deep concern for the possibility of developing a gold mine where water sources lead into a major waterway, the St. Mary’s River, and outlined the potential risks involved in developing a mine site in an area that has been the focus of intense restoration work over the past number of years.

“It doesn’t make a lot of sense to introduce that kind of environmental risk to an area that we have worked so hard to preserve and restore,” Beaver said. He cited a number of organizations, including the Nova Scotia Salmon Assoc.,  that oppose the mine development and hold up the work that the River Association has done as an example to the world of how to restore and replenish struggling river ecosystems. He also noted that the Coastal Restoration Fund, along with the Province and private donors are currently working on a $4 million dollar project to further develop and restore the river and its salmon population.

Beaver stated, “We oppose the development of a gold mine in this area and intend to embark on a public education campaign to let people know what our concerns are.”

 The Association is initiating a NOPE (No Open Pit Excavation) Campaign to inform the community. They are also calling on the municipality to initiate a by-law preventing any mining within eight kilometres of the St. Mary’s River. However, he did state that if, in the end, the mine is approved, that the River Association would partner with the municipality to ensure that stringent environmental controls be put in place to prevent any damage to the St. Mary’s River.

“But our preference is, no mine,” said Beaver.

Melrose resident Gwen Boutilier expressed concerns over noise, heavy truck traffic and ground water, saying, “I’m really worried that the mine will affect my well, it took me years to get my well water and I don’t know if the mine will drain or contaminate it.”

District #1 Councillor Debbie Findlay agreed with the need for environmental safeguards for the river, but added, “We are a struggling area that needs to bring in jobs and opportunities. Yes, we should add all the precautions necessary but we have to look for ways to use what little resources we have.”

Warden Mike Mosher expressed thanks for the presentation. "We appreciate the group coming forward to present their case in such a clear and professional way. We certainly need to look at both sides of this issue. The river is important to all of us, and so are jobs, so we need to look at this very carefully."

While Atlantic Gold has met previously with the River Association and municipal officials, they have  just released the project description to the public and there is still an environmental assessment process that has to take place. Preliminary site exploration work has been ongoing but the environmental green light has yet to be given on the project.

The Municipality of the District of St. Mary's confirmed to The Journal that it will be submitting commentary to the federal assessment now underway to determine if a federal environmental review is needed, in addition to the provincial review.