CBC NEWS - NEW BRUNSWICK
Public concerned over Sisson mine's proposal to dump waste water into fish-bearing brooks
A meeting was held by Environment and Climate Change Canada and had more than 200 people in attendance
Gary Moore · CBC News · Posted: Mar 16, 2018 9:01 AM AT
Close to 250 people crowded into the Upper Nashwaak Lions Club in Cross Creek to hear what the company behind the Sisson Mine project had to say about its proposal to the federal government on disposing waste water into fish-bearing brooks, and plans to compensate for loss of fish habitat.
The meeting was held by Environment and Climate Change Canada on Thursday night and included a series of four presentations — two from the company, one from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans [DFO] and one from Environment and Climate Change Canada.
A few minutes into the first presentation, the crowd started to get restless and wanted to ask questions from all angles of the project.
The frustrations were pent up from a community of people who say they haven't had a chance to voice concerns to the people behind the project until now.
Blaine Merrill of Stanley says he's glad to finally get a chance to air grievances to the company, and felt the night overall was a step in the right direction. But he says there's still a lot of unanswered questions.
"We didn't get all the answers we wanted to get," he said. "I felt like they buffaloed us quite a bit. And, talked over our heads."
One of the items on the agenda was to address how the company, Northcliff Resources Ltd., plans to dispose of waste.
Three tailings disposal technologies were considered for five potential tailings storage facility locations.
Through a pre-screening evaluation the only suitable technology determined was conventional slurry tailings disposal — the report says this is because of environmental risks.
Peter Toner, who is with the Nashwaak Watershed Association, left the meeting feeling like the company ruled out some world class technology and practice without giving it a thorough overview.
"Why were these alternate technologies ruled out so early in the process and on the basis of what scientific evidence?"
Toner says he's concerned they were ruled out for the wrong reasons.
"They ruled out the two other technologies that also happen to be more expensive and harder to implement."
Loss of fish habitat
The other issue that was presented was how the company planned to compensate for the loss of fish habitat.
The solution proposed by Northcliff Resources is to remove an old water-level control dam/road culvert on the Nashwaak River just below its exit from Nashwaak Lake and replace it with a bridge.
The dam/road culvert would be a barrier to fish passage which would allow gasperau — a small fish also known as the alewife — to have access to the lake for spawning and rearing.
Nathan Wilbur, of the Atlantic Salmon Federation, says the plan isn't sufficient for the size of the project.
"If this is all that's required of the Sisson Brook Mine to compensate for fish habitat loss, it's like they're winning the lottery," Wilbur said.
"It would be an embarrassment to DFO and Environment and Climate Change Canada if this is all they required of the proponent."
As for the timeline of the project, Greg Davidson of the Sisson Partnership, says they're working through a regulatory process which was part of the consultation.
Davidson says there's misconceptions out there that the construction for the project is starting this spring, but he says that's not true. And it could be up to 18 months before they get all the permits.
The public has 30 days to submit comments and concerns to government as part of the process.