KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Crazy as it may sound, the Nova Scotia Mining Association wants to be allowed to mine and quarry inside Nova Scotia’s protected areas. The provincial government has stated it isn’t interested in opening up these areas, but organizations such as the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) remain on high alert.
“To the government’s credit they have indicated that protected areas will not suddenly be made available to mining, and I am glad that the premier and his ministers haven’t taken the bait on that,” says Chris Miller, National Conservation Biologist for CPAWS. “But the mining association continues to lobby for this, and continues to reach out to municipalities, getting people upset and so we need to stay on top of it.”
In its recent report, A better balance, the Mining Association suggests that economic opportunities and jobs are lost just because of these pesky protection rules. It wants changes in the legislation allowing land swaps to occur so mining can occur within protected areas. It also demands that no further protected areas be created, because, well, enough is enough.
WIth chapter titles such as Forever is an awfully long time, and How protecting land harms the industry, and photos of idyllic reclaimed mining sites Nova Scotia’s mining companies and quarries are going all out in their campaign.
The campaign mainly targets municipal councils, arguing that some regions are carrying more than a fair share of protected lands, and raising the prospect of new jobs. To municipal politicians who face outmigration and related challenges in hard hit rural Nova Scotia such arguments carry weight. The hope of course is that these municipal politicians will then find a sympathetic ear among their provincial counterparts.
Miller doesn’t buy the Mining Association’s arguments though.
“It’s shocking, to be honest, mining companies already have access to private land, private protected land and public lands, and now they want access to protected public land,” says Miller.
“They have the audacity to say that they are asking for a better balance, as if the balance is tipped towards nature conservation. Only 13% of our landmass is protected, 87% isn’t, There is indeed an imbalance, but it is an imbalance against nature,” Miller says.
Protected areas in Nova Scotia include the hard fought Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lake area just minutes from urban Halifax, but also lands in the Wentworth Valley, the Cape Breton HIghlands, the Margaree River watershed, Tobeatic Wilderness Area near Kejimkujik, the many recently protected islands along the Eastern Shore, and more.
The Mining Association report painstakingly lists all that is lost to the industry because protected areas are off limits. “The Cape Breton Highlands are also a new frontier for gold deposits in the province and the now-protected Jim Campbell’s barren hosts eight of the more significant prospects,” notes the report.
Most famously perhaps the report suggests that Kelly’s Mountain would make an excellent location for a rock quarry. “However, the designation of the Kluscap Wilderness area over the proposed project area has forever blocked this from happening,” sighs the report’s author. A quick blockade of a local road by Mi’kmaq and settler activists in late November shows that sentiment isn’t necessarily shared by all.
For Miller the Mining Association’s job argument rings hollow.
“It’s a false arguments, and we must be weary of people who peddle this,” says Miller. “The tourism industry alone is worth $2.6 billion annually, which is staggering compared to the $22 million (in economic activity) annually that the report claims is somehow locked in the ground within these protected areas.”
“It’s not a choice between protecting the economy as opposed to protecting the environment. With our current protective plan we address both concerns,” says Miller. Protected lands are a pillar to our communities, they enrich our lives, the tourism industry relies on these areas. Let’s not throw all of that away for a handful of jobs.”
CPAWS hopes that concerned citizens will write the Nova Scotia government encouraging it to remain firm in its refusal to consider the Mining Association’s proposals. Check out their action page here.
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