New Brunswick

Sisson mine proposal divides residents, interest groups

The proposed Sisson mine project drew more than 300 people out to Stanley High School on Monday night as citizens and interest groups argued about whether the open pit mine should should be approved.

Mine proponents say the project will bring jobs, opponents question legitimacy of meeting in Stanley

About 300 people turned out on Monday night for a public meeting to discuss the environmental impact assessment report into the Sisson mine project. (Julianne Hazlewood/CBC)

About 300 people gathered in the Stanley High School gymnasium on Monday night, as dozens of residents, businesses, industry groups, environmentalists and First Nations made impassioned cases both for and against the proposed Sisson mine project.

The public consultation meeting was held by the Department of Environment and Local Government as part of the environmental review process.

An independent review panel, which will make recommendations to the provincial government on the project in the fall, presided over the meeting.

The majority of speakers were from industry groups, such as independent businesses, unions and associations.

These groups unequivocally expressed support for the open-pit tungsten and molybdenum mine, citing the desperate need for jobs in the area and the province.

Angela Acquin of Saint Mary's First Nation said she understands that people want work in New Brunswick but the land for the proposed mine is also a traditional hunting ground. (CBC)
Gary Ritchie, the president of the New Brunswick Building Trades Council, urged the provincial government to make the project a reality.

"Right now there's businesses in the province that are failing because they can't get a crack at the work and this project will help these people or these businesses to move forward," said Ritchie.

However, the support for the mine was not unanimous.

Gary Spencer, a member of the Nashwaak Watershed Association and the New Brunswick Salmon Council, said he initially was in support of the project, but has since changed his position.

"We [the watershed association and salmon council] did not start out by saying no to this project. We started by saying yes to this project and to try to make a better project," Spencer said.

"Unfortunately I'm here tonight to ask this panel to reject the environmental impact assessment as written today."

Spencer said environmental impact assessment filed by Northcliff Resources has not educated the public on the project.

Spencer also said he's concerned the company has allotted an insufficient amount of money to clean up the area after the mine's 27-year lifespan.

'It feels illegitimate'

After several presentations, there was a short period where people in the audience who were not registered as speakers could go to the podium.

Pierre-Marcel Desjardins, an economist, was the chairperson for the Sisson mine meeting on Monday night in Stanley. (CBC)
Julia Linke raised concerns about people not knowing about the meeting.

"I'm an example of one of the tens of thousands of people that lives from Stanley downstream to Fredericton, who were not aware that this meeting was going on," said Linke.

"The process of how this meeting was handled and is being handled somehow just doesn't sit right. It feels illegitimate. Not enough people know about this meeting. The presentations are stacked with industry people."

Of the 30 speakers, there were 21 speakers in support of the project.

Russ Letica, a consultation coordinator with the Madawaska Maliseet First Nation, addressed the crowd at the end of the night.

He agreed there hasn't been enough consultation and public knowledge of the project, which ultimately he said would destroy Maliseet territory.

"It is a catastrophe waiting to happen. I'm just afraid that the New Brunswick taxpayer is going to flip the bill for a mine being pushed through by the province," said Letica.

Westbound for work

For several years, Nick Merrill has been travelling to and from Alberta for work.

Several proponents of the Sisson mine project said the development would keep jobs in the area. (CBC)
He made a presentation to the panel as a private citizen, making a plea to come home. Merrill said he sees the Sisson mine as the solution.

"My heart is in New Brunswick and I would love to make an honest living here and come home to my wife and my family every night of the year, Merrill said.

Tom Hoyt, also made a presentation as a private citizen, saying several people asked him to speak "primarily because I've got a big mouth."

A strong proponent of the project, Hoyt said the stakes are too high to turn down the project.

"It's now come upon us, we are now almost an economic Armageddon unless we turn this horse around," said Hoyt.

Angela Acquin of Saint Mary's First Nation said she could understand the sentiment of people wanting to bring work back to New Brunswick for their families.

"I totally understand that sentiment. I also hope that people can understand that this is our traditional hunting lands, this is our traditional gathering lands," Acquin said.

"And that I really hope for the seven generations to bring my children out on that land to hunt for their moose, to fish for fish, to collect their berries and their medicines."

The public consultation period ends July 17.

People are invited to submit written submissions in response to the company's environmental impact assessment before that time.

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