New Brunswick

Sisson mine backers don't mollify crowd over proposal to dump waste water into brooks

Close to 250 people crowded into the Upper Nashwaak Lions Club to hear what the company behind the Sisson Mine project had to say about its proposal to dispose of waste water into fish-bearing brooks.

A meeting was held by Environment and Climate Change Canada and had more than 200 people in attendance

People listened from the halls, as more than 250 people filled the Upper Nashwaak Lions Club in Cross Creek to talk about Sisson mine project's proposal to dump waste water into fish-bearing brooks. (Gary Moore/CBC)

Close to 250 people crowded into the Upper Nashwaak Lions Club in Cross Creek to hear what the company behind the Sisson mine project had to say about its dispose of waste water into fish-bearing brooks and compensate for the loss of fish habitat.

The meeting was held by Environment and Climate Change Canada on Thursday night and included four presentations — two from the company, one from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and one from Environment and Climate Change Canada.

A few minutes into the first presentation, the crowd started to get restless and wanted to ask questions from all angles of the project.

People expressed frustration that they haven't had a chance to voice their concerns to the mine proponents until now.

Nathan Wilbur of the Atlantic Salmon Federation voiced his concerns about the plan to compensate for the loss of fish habitat. (Gary Moore/CBC)

Blaine Merrill of Stanley said he was glad to finally get a chance to air his grievances and felt the night overall was a step in the right direction. But he said there are still unanswered questions.

"We didn't get all the answers we wanted to get," he said. "I felt like they buffaloed us quite a bit. And talked over our heads."

Water quality

One of the items on the agenda was to address how the company, Northcliff Resources Ltd., plans to dispose of waste. 

Three tailings-disposal technologies were considered for five potential storage locations. 

Through a pre-screening evaluation, it was determined the only suitable technology would be conventional slurry tailings disposal, the proponents say. A report said this is because of environmental risks.

Peter Toner, with the Nashwaak Watershed Association, left the meeting feeling the company ruled out some world-class technology and practice without giving them a thorough study. 

People working on the Sisson mine project fielded questions from dozens of frustrated people who attended Thursday's meeting. (Gary Moore/CBC)

"Why were these alternate technologies ruled out so early in the process and on the basis of what scientific evidence?"

Toner said he's concerned they were ruled out for the wrong reasons.

"They ruled out the two other technologies that also happen to be more expensive and harder to implement." 

Loss of fish habitat

The other issue was how the company planned to compensate for the loss of fish habitat.

The solution proposed by Northcliff Resources is to remove an old water-level control dam/road culvert on the Nashwaak River just below its exit from Nashwaak Lake and replace it with a bridge.

The dam/road culvert would be a barrier to fish passage which would allow gaspereau — a small fish also known as the alewife — to have access to the lake for spawning and rearing. 

Nathan Wilbur of the Atlantic Salmon Federation said the plan isn't sufficient for the size of the project.

"If this is all that's required of the Sisson Brook mine to compensate for fish habitat loss, it's like they're winning the lottery," Wilbur said.

"It would be an embarrassment to (the Fisheries Department) and Environment and Climate Change Canada if this is all they required of the proponent."

Timeline unknown

As for the timeline of the project, Greg Davidson of the Sisson Partnership, said the company is working through a regulatory process that includes consultation.

Davidson said there is a misconception that construction will start this spring, which isn't true. It could be up to 18 months before the project gets all the permits. 

The public has 30 days to submit comments and concerns to government as part of the process.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gary Moore

CBC News

Gary Moore is a video journalist based in Fredericton.

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