Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Mineral exploration in Cape Breton mostly under the radar

[this is a letter from yesterday's Cape Breton Post. I have inserted my own comments in green. Where appropriate, I have pasted links to various groups and documents.]

I was surprised to learn from an article in the Victoria Standard (Nov. 5-18) of the "aggressive drilling for zinc and lead deposits in four areas of the Bras d'Or watershed (Middle River, Baddeck Forks, River Denys and West Bay), in addition to the Jubilee Zinc works in Iona by Merrex Gold Inc.

I had not heard of this "regional zinc project" or seen mention of it in The ChronicleHerald (Did I miss it?), and I wonder whether there was any public information about the prospects and impacts of zinc and lead mining here should these exploration drills prove fruitful.

The reason for my concern is that three environmental groups - Ecojustice, Great lakes United, and Mining Watch Canada ( - are seeking a judicial review of the actions of federal Environment Minister John Baird for allegedly counselling mining companies to ignore their legal responsibility to report all the pollution they're responsible for.

Apparently, mining companies were told that they needn't report millions of kilograms of polluting tailings and waste rock to the National Pollution Release inventory as required by law since 2006 under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. The enormous amounts of these mining wastes threaten the health and communities and ecosystems surrounding them.

So I'm wondering what kind of regulatory regime we can expect here in Cape Breton and how the public health and environment will be protected when the federal government is indulging the mining companies to break the laws. Will the Department of Natural Resources step forward and inform us about this activity and how its being regulated?

It is most important that mining companies know from the start what kind of a regulatory system they can expect. [Currently, I see very little regulation in Canada that protects people or ecosystems.] We open ourselves for another tar ponds-scale catastrophe if it not clear to them that they will not have a free ride here in terms of environmental degradation for their convenience and profit and political kudos for the government of the day.

The lead and zinc tailings leaching through streams and brooks would in the long term be of far greater damage to the Bras D'Or Lake than the continual discharge of countless unregulated cottage sewerage outfalls. [Which paints an ugly picture for those of you unfamiliar with the enormous, expansive, glorious Bras d'Or, the forested and mountainous coast of which is dotted with the occasional cottage.]

We are fortunate to have several organizations now pursuing the conservation of the lakes and I hope they will take action to ensure that this mining initiative is properly scrutinized. However that may be, it would be refreshing if the ministers responsible for our health, the watershed environment and mining resources would show some leadership here.

Aaron Schneider
RR 4 Baddeck

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