MAC: Mines and Communities

What belongs to us should not be mined

Published by MAC on 2007-08-06

What belongs to us should not be mined

By Tracy Glynn and Craig Johnson, For the Times & Transcript

Published Monday August

6th August 2007

New Brunswick is rapidly becoming prey to dozens of local, national and international mining companies. Prospecting is happening at an unprecedented rate, and New Brunswickers deserve to know what this means for them, for their property, and for their communities, all of which will be affected in a future of increasingly predatory mining development.

The resurgence in mining interest throughout the world is largely driven by an international growth in demand for metals and minerals for manufacturing and production in China and India, and by a renewed interest in nuclear power. The latter has drastically increased the global hunger for uranium, and countless areas throughout the world are feeling the pressure of increased prospecting, including New Brunswick's own Turtle Creek. In the last eight months alone, 12,000 new mining claims have been registered with the Department of Natural Resources.

With this rise in international demand comes a rise in the value of these mined resources -- naturally, when prices rise, there is more money to be made. This also means that areas where it previously wasn't profitable to mine now suddenly begin to become profitable, drawing the interest of companies hungry for profits and for expansion into new markets.

However, in response to this rise in prospecting and mining efforts has come an equally strong backlash. Communities around the world are mounting opposition in an effort to preserve their land, safeguard their water from contamination, and protect their citizens and children from the adverse health and societal impacts of mining projects.

Uranium is found throughout Canada and is typically concentrated, underground, in hard rock and sandstone. Uranium has been mined and utilized as energy for electricity, weapons, and military submarines and at times in the production of radioisotopes for medicine and scientific research. However, radioisotopes can be artificially produced and do not actually require uranium for their production.

Uranium has been mined in the Northwest Territories, Ontario and continues to be mined heavily in Northern Saskatchewan. Significant deposits of uranium have also been discovered in Nova Scotia; however, New Brunswickers should note that as a result of strong public opposition and inquiry, the prospecting and mining of uranium have been banned in Nova Scotia.

Uranium mines in northern Saskatchewan have made headlines over the years for leaving a toxic legacy of arsenic, long-lived radionuclides and other heavy metals in nearby lands and waters. Effluent from uranium mines is unambiguously defined as a toxic substance under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

Here in New Brunswick, the areas of Turtle Creek, Cambridge Narrows, as well the north of the province are experiencing the pressure of increased prospecting, and many community members and landowners are rightly infuriated by the appearance of prospecting tags upon their land, largely driven by this resurgence of interest in uranium.

This represents a violation of their property, and their rights as landowners in the province -- these New Brunswick citizens are perfectly justified in raising concerns over the implications of these tags for the future of their land.

New Brunswick's Mining Act is currently outdated, having remained unchanged since the 1980s. It stipulates that mining companies are not required to notify landowners prior to staking their land because minerals found beneath the surface are said to be owned by the Crown. Prospectors are only required to notify landowners of any work that would damage the environment or disrupt the land. Landowners in Cambridge Narrows are calling for the Mining Act to be reviewed and amended.

Fortunately, in a recent article, our Minister of Natural Resources assured us that "a mine will not be allowed to open if the environment will be adversely affected." (Letter to the Telegraph-Journal, July 26, 2007). Then, one might ask, what's the problem?

If this statement were true, no mine would ever be opened, not in New Brunswick or anywhere else in the world, since there isn't a single mining activity in the world that has not adversely impacted the environment in which it takes place.

Mining is an inherently destructive and polluting activity, entailing impacts for the surrounding soil, wildlife, waterways, and human populations during virtually every phase of production, from mining to smelting and eventually manufacturing.

New Brunswickers deserve to be aware of what this rise in prospecting means for their area, and what it means for their future, and the future of their land, lest they become prey to the profit-driven motives of large mining companies eager to stake their claims to New Brunswick soil.

Tracy Glynn and Craig Johnson are members of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick.



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