New Brunswick

Sisson mine impact on Maliseet First Nations 'significant'

Not enough is being done to mitigate the impact of the proposed Sisson Brook mine on Maliseet First Nations, states a new report from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.

Federal environmental assessment of project says not enough done to mitigate impact on Maliseet concerns

The Sisson mine project includes a tailings pond and ore processing plant, covering 12.5 square kilometres of Crown land. (Northcliff Resources Ltd.)

There isn't enough being done to mitigate the impact of the proposed Sisson Brook mine on Maliseet First Nations people, states a new report from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.

Sisson Mines Ltd. is proposing to develop an open pit tungsten and molybdenum mine and ore processing facility 60 kilometres northwest of Fredericton.

The mine is projected to operate for 27 years at a mining rate of 30,000 dry tonnes per day.

A comprehensive study report by the environmental assessment agency states the project is "not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects taking into account the implementation of mitigation measures."

The provincial government said it would consider giving St. Mary's First Nation a piece of land if the $579-million Sisson mine project is approved.
However, the study does find the impact of the project is likely to be significant on the Maliseet First Nations of Tobique, Kingsclear, Woodstock, and St. Mary's through loss of a traditional area for hunting, fishing and resource-gathering and not enough is being done to address those concerns 

"The agency considered that the measures proposed fail to address the permanent loss of access to an area of high value and the associated use of that area," states the report.

"The agency concludes that the project is likely to result in significant adverse environmental effects on the current use of lands and resources for traditional purposes by Maliseet First Nations."

Traditional Maliseet resource area

The mine is expected to result in the loss of 1,253 hectares with residual impacts on hunting, fishing and other resources used by Maliseet and Mi'kmaq First Nations for traditional purposes.

Ron Tremblay, the appointed grand chief of Wolastoq, says the land in question is sacred and he wants it left alone. (CBC)
The report notes the provincial government and Maliseet First Nations are "negotiating potential accommodation" and states additional mitigation may result from the discussions.

But Ron Tremblay, the Wolastoq grand chief, says no amount of accommodation is worth damaging the land.

"I spoke to a couple of the chiefs, and they said there were possible other parcels of land, and so on, but I, as the Wolastoq grand chief, don't approve of the accommodation process. We just want them to leave the land as it is," said Tremblay.

"We feel that as traditional people, we still utilize the land in our gathering, to hunt, and to do ceremonies, plus to collect medicines in that traditional territory," he said. "That's a very sacred piece of land to our people."

"We have members from all over the province, and each community has members in the grand council … We all stand pretty much together and we're in favour of keeping our lands together."

Energy and Mines Minister Donald Arseneault said in March 2015 the provincial government could consider giving St. Mary's First Nation a piece of land if the $579-million mine project is approved.

Energy and Mines Minister Donald Arseneault said the province would be willing to give St. Mary's First Nation land if the Sisson mine project goes ahead. (CBC)
However, the environmental assessment agency said it is of the view that "a limited number" of large Crown land blocks remain available to practise current uses for traditional purposes in proximity to the Maliseet communities of Tobique, Kingsclear, Woodstock and St. Mary's.

"Within the remaining Crown land blocks, use by these First Nations is limited by other existing land uses," the report said.

Maliseet opposition

In December 2015, a lawyer representing six Maliseet bands said "none of the Maliseet chiefs support the project."

Dominque Nouvet represents the six Maliseet First Nations of St. Mary's, Oromocto, Kingslcear, Woodstock, Tobique and Madawaska in their negotiations with the New Brunswick government about the Sisson mine project. (CBC)
Dominique Nouvet was reacting to the province giving its approval for the Sisson mine and a statement by the chief executive officer of Northcliff Resources that the company had received a significant amount of positive support from First Nations.

"The main reactions are dismay and anger over the approvals coming so suddenly and with basically no warning," Nouvet said.

In August 2013, about 100 members from St. Mary's First Nation occupied the site of the proposed mine and Chief Candace Paul vowed to fight the project "at all costs."

Candace Paul, chief of St. Mary's First Nation, has vowed to do whatever it takes to stop the development of the Sisson mine project. (CBC)
"Jobs and things are great, but not at the cost of the environment," said Paul.

"We will have to do what we have to do. This is our traditional land."

The publication of the report late Friday initiated a 30-day period for public comment on the report.

With files from Catherine Harrop