The Concerned Citizens of Penobsquis group is expected to explain Wednesday why all but two of its members abruptly withdrew their allegations against PotashCorp on the day of closing arguments in a two-and-a-half-year battle.

The group, which represents 24 people, had been seeking financial compensation for the loss of their well water and damage to their homes, which they claimed occurred after the company began seismic testing for a new mine in the area several years ago.

It was the biggest challenge of its kind ever heard by New Brunswick's mining commissioner, Roderick Duguay, and was believed to be the longest hearing ever held by the commissioner.


Mining commissioner Roderick Duguay has rescheduled closing arguments until Oct. 1. ((CBC))

Duguay was scheduled to hear closing arguments from both sides on Monday.

Instead, Beth Nixon, the group's spokesperson, told the hearing the majority of them had decided to withdraw because they were at an "unfair disadvantage" and that the process was "broken."

She did not elaborate, but her comments came on the heels of conversations between the group, PotashCorp officials and the company's lawyer earlier in the day.

Heather McCabe, who along with Beth Norrad, plans to see the hearing through to the end, told CBC News she doesn't know what transpired to make the others change their minds.

She said she agrees with Nixon that the system is flawed, but it is the only system she has and she wants someone to be held accountable for the losses she has suffered.

McCabe claims she is one of the hardest hit. Her house has dropped about one metre at one end and the roof is buckling, she said. She also has to spray Javex under her bed every day because her sewage keeps backing up.

Closing arguments have been rescheduled until Oct. 1.


One of the residents, Brenda Morrell, had told the mining hearing a sinkhole that developed on her land was large enough to fit a small car. ((CBC))

One of the people who withdrew her claim, Brenda Lee Morrell, had told the hearing she believes her family's property is no longer safe to farm after seven generations of growing crops and rasiing livestock.

She also said a sinkhole large enough to swallow a small car was discovered in a hay field in 2008, while other areas were also sinking and shifting.

The residents have been representing themselves for about a year, having given up their lawyer due to mounting legal fees.

The company has supplied water to the affected homes, but has paid no financial compensation.

The residents decided to take their concerns about PotashCorp to the province's mining commissioner, which is a rarely used option allowed for in the Mining Act, instead of taking the company to court.

The mining commissioner has the power to award financial compensation to the homeowners. However, the decision can be appealed to the courts.

Nixon previously told CBC News about 60 residents lost their well water, starting in 2004.