Nova Scotia's natural resources minister is caught in a tug of war between a gold mining company and a family of Christmas tree growers who don't want to sell their land.
DDV Gold wants to develop an open pit mine in the Moose River area, near Middle Musquodoboit. The company says this would revitalize the industry and create jobs.
The company's plan hinges on acquiring eight hectares of land that has been in the Higgins family for over a century.
'It's very much a question of our land not being for sale' — Cleve Higgins, Christmas tree grower
The family refused to sell, so DDV Gold filed an expropriation notice with the province.
Cleve Higgins said it's the location of the mine he's against, not the project itself.
"It's very much a question of our land not being for sale and the property rights of landowners in Nova Scotia generally to be able to hold onto a property if they're using it and don't want to sell it," Higgins told CBC News.
Australia-based DDV Gold has spent the last seven years preparing the ground to build a $140-million gold mine. It wants to open the mine in 2013.
"It's an unfortunate situation. It's not one we've gone out of our way to create. Mother Nature put the gold where it is," said Wally Bucknell, CEO of DDV Gold.
"We have, in fact, redesigned the pit in order to see what impact non-access to this land would have. And it turns out that it, in effect, destroys the project. It reduces production to the extent that the project just isn't feasible."
Bucknell said if he can get the land, the Moose River site will produce 500,000 ounces of gold — equal to about half of the province's production before the First World War.
There are no operating gold mines in Nova Scotia right now. Bucknell said his project would kickstart the industry and employ more than 100 people.
The Higgins family employs 25 people each November to cut Christmas trees.
Some Christmas tree farmers and a woodlot owners' group are asking Natural Resources Minister Charlie Parker to refuse the expropriation request.
Higgins said groups are worried that this would set a precedent for gold mining companies.
Worried about precedent
"If the government can do this in the case of DDV Gold, then other areas where mining projects are being proposed people are going to have some serious questions about the value that their land has and whether it's worth them continuing to invest in it and take care of it if their land can be taken away at any time," he said.
Bucknell said DDV Gold has already bought 49 properties at Moose River from 29 property owners. He said there is one other holdout besides Higgins.
As minister of natural resources, it's Parker's job to promote both forest production and mining development.
"It has some economic benefits to the province, good paying jobs in rural areas. But again, I am weighing that against the rights of landowners that are affected here," Parker said.
Parker said he's in no hurry to make a decision and plans to talk with everyone involved.