Dozens of shale gas protesters cut down trees and blocked Route 134 near Rexton on Monday, vowing not to back down until they are granted a meeting with officials from the provincial government and SWN Resources.
Some of the protesters had been on the scene overnight Sunday, with the crowd peaking at about 70 people in the morning.
Initially, the protesters formed a barrier to prevent exploration vehicles used by SWN Resources from accessing Route 134, which connects Rexton with Route 11, the main highway between Moncton and Miramichi.
At around 10:30 a.m., the protesters cut down five trees beside the highway and used them to establish barricades on the road and to block the entrance to the area where the SWN vehicles are parked.
They say blocking the road was a last resort.
“We’ve tried to speak to politicians, we’ve petitioned, we’ve marched on the legislature, we’ve done everything that we should be doing and Alward and his government just keep saying they have a mandate. I don’t know who he got it from, it sure wasn’t the people of New Brunswick," said protester Al McLaughlin.
Some of the protesters, who are referring to themselves as warrior chiefs and generals from First Nations communities across the Maritimes and Quebec, met with an RCMP mediator Monday morning to relay a message.
"This is done. We want them to stop," said James Pictou. "We want SWN out of here, out of New Brunswick. We’re not giving in [any] more," he said.
Fellow protester Ginny Marshall agrees. "This is a firm stand that there’s no negotiating our water, and our future, and our children’s future," she said.
The protesters have agreed to allow emergency vehicles to pass through the barricades and say they will be peaceful.
Tensions have flared over the possible development of a shale gas industry in New Brunswick and in particular, the use of hydraulic fracturing, also known as hydro-fracking.
It is a process where exploration companies inject a mixture of water, sand and chemicals into the ground, creating cracks in shale rock formations, which allows companies to extract natural gas from areas that would otherwise go untapped.
Opponents have raised several concerns about the process, such as the use of chemicals, the potential to ruin water supplies, noise from the operations and the potential to damage the local environment.
Kent County has been the focus of opposition this year as SWN Resources explores the area to determine the potential for exploratory drilling to take place in the future.