Geraldton homeowners await word on new Premier Gold mine

Premier Gold continues planning for an open-pit gold mine on the outskirts of Geraldton. If it goes ahead, up to 60 homeowners will be forced to move.

Start-up of open pit mine may mean dozens of homeowners will have to leave their property

Terry Horan, a life-long resident of Geraldton, is anxious to find out what will happen to her home, which sits on a proposed open-pit mine site. (Martine Laberge/Radio Canada)

Premier Gold continues planning for an open-pit gold mine on the outskirts of Geraldton. If it goes ahead, up to 60 homeowners will be forced to move.

“On a personal level, [it’s] a very sad thing that this is coming, because we stand to lose,” said Terry Horan. She and her family have been in their house for 15 years.

Moving would be like losing a family member, she added.

“Once they die, you're still in shock, and you're still grieving, and it's still a loss that, although you've prepared for it and you thought you were ready, you're not.  So that's kind of how I feel — like a huge sense of loss."

Horan said hearing chatter around town about the mine is hard to cope with, knowing that she may lose her home.

“People are so excited about the growth potential and about … the economic benefits.”

Despite her misgivings, Horan said she does see the potential for the mine to bring prosperity to Geraldton.

"We are looking forward to the benefits [of having a mine open]. If I step out of my home ownership, and my mother role and … all the things I have to take care of now, and if this was on the other side of town, and I wasn't affected, I'd be singing and dancing about it."

Waiting is challenging

Premier Gold has begun talks with homeowners about the proposed mine near the turnoff from Highway 11 into Geraldton.

Premier CEO Ewan Downie noted feasibility studies for the mine aren't done yet so, for now, the company is trying to keep people informed.

“It looks most viable as an open pit … but … we're more than a year away from making a final decision on that,” Downie said. “We don't want to give any impression that 'Hey, we're buying houses' … because we're not.”

Horan said she and her family are trying to remain positive, but the waiting is the most challenging part.

Greenstone mayor Renald Beaulieu says the prospect of a new open pit mine is "exciting news for us," but a lot of work and planning still remains. (Martine Laberge/Radio-Canada)

Greenstone mayor Renald Beaulieu said the prospect of a new mine is “exciting news for us, no doubt about it. But there's a lot of work ahead, there's a lot of planning, there's a lot of things that have to be looked at on the municipal side in regards to ‘how do we cater to these.'"

At a recent open house on the issue, Beaulieu said property owners asked if they could be forced to move under Ontario's expropriation laws. Beaulieu said that could happen, but added all indications are the company wants to make deals with property owners, should it come to that.

Brian and Josée Couch are another pair of residents who could be displaced. They have six children and bought their house three years ago.

"We have the spot here, we have a nice back yard, we have nice privacy, there's a park right behind us, and we aren't going to find that in town,” Brian Couch said.

"It's expensive to rebuild [and] we don't have the money to rebuild [and] we don't want to build a house. It's very stressful, especially to not know what's going to happen."

Nevertheless, he said he's not against the mine project.

“It's a project that going to be great for the whole area, so I'm all for it and, as long as the premier and the municipality of Greenstone take care of us, then everybody's great."


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