Saturday, May 03, 2008

Article for People's Global Action zine

The rural Community of Upper Leitches Creek (Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia) is a string of homes along a long, winding road through the forest on the Hill of Boisdale. Upper Leitches Creek is being made uninhabitable due to two open-surface gravel mines. One is operated by Alva Construction Ltd., a mainland-based company.

The people of Upper Leitches Creek and our allies have said “no” to Alva’s activity, via letters, a petition, and a partial road blockade. However, Nova Scotia Premier Rodney Macdonald’s government has completely disregarded us. Take note that the Premier receives campaign contributions from Pioneer Coal, another mining company. The Cape Breton Post estimated a project lifespan of 20 years. We know our MLA met with the minister & the MLA hoped to have the entire cabinet see the Point Aconi presentation.

There is a total lack of regulatory control over the natural resource industry on Cape Breton Island. In a purportedly democratic country such as Canada, the interests of a private company (whose owners live far away on mainland Nova Scotia) should not outweigh the interests of the immediate community.

Environmentally-friendly techniques are not within the repertoire of industrial mining. Alva Construction has hollowed out a vast pit, where there used to be a grove of enormous old pine trees, which my forefathers treasured. The residents of Upper Leitches Creek are gravely concerned for the safety of their water supply. We do not want heavy metal runoff to poison the ancient and socially valuable wells and streams where fish live, and unique wild biotypes of heritage herbs grow. Alva's operation encroaches on the habitat of endangered lynx, wetlands where endangered miniature white orchids grow, and the old-growth forest in the backlands. The boreal (or brown-capped) chickadee, barred owls, bald eagles, partridges, deer, wolves, ermines, silver foxes, and innumerable forest birds and small mammals, all depend on the forest and creeks.

To add insult to injury, Riverside Development Limited applied to operate an aggregate quarry on Highway #223 next to the former Levatte's Construction Gravel Pit. The particular size of the proposed operation allows it to escape full environmental scrutiny and accountability. The area also drains into George's River and the ecologically significant (and purportedly protected) Bras D'Or. It is understandable that frustration and blatant disregard for the legitimate concerns of residents cause many in Cape Breton to believe the only avenue left is direct action.

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