New Brunswick

Stanley residents divided over proposed Sisson mine

Some Stanley residents see the open-pit tungsten and molybdenum mine as the village's golden ticket, a way to give the community a much-needed economic jolt. But there are also deep-seated fears about the environmental impact of the project.

It's the largest village near the mine, community uncertain about its survival and divided on future

Larry Wuest, a resident of the area, takes a look at the Nashwaak River, which runs through the Village of Stanley. (CBC)

It's fair to say the future of Stanley is uncertain.

Over the years, the population has dwindled to about 400 people, three mills have closed in the area over the last decade and the primary and secondary schools are on the verge of being combined because of low enrolment.

"Pretty soon this place will be a ghost town if they don't get something here," said Lawrence Green, who has lived in the area his entire life.

And that's where the Sisson mine comes in. Stanley is the largest village near the proposed mine project.

Some people in the area see the open-pit tungsten and molybdenum mine as the village's golden ticket, a way to give the community a much-needed economic boost.

The mine is supposed to create about 800 jobs. The company says it's committed to making those positions local.

But there are also deep-seated fears about the environmental impact of the project among some living in the community.

At the root of both perspectives is a profound concern about the survival of Stanley. 

Here are their stories.

'It would be a good thing'

The Bavis's living room is full of photographs of their children and grandchildren.

Kathy Bavis points out her eldest son, Danny Paradis. 

He left Stanley five years ago for Fort McMurray, after losing his job when the company he worked for suddenly shut down, she said.

But she's certain if the Sisson project is built, he'll come home to work at the mine.

"I know he will come back. And that's a good feeling because you don't want your family to live so far away and there are a lot of families that are suffering from that," Kathy Bavis said.

Her husband said the proposed mine does not bother him.

"It would be a good thing, all right, make work for some people," he said.

For Kathy Bavis, she said it is important to think of the larger picture when assessing the mine.

"It's for the community, it's for the province. The New Brunswick economy certainly needs stuff like this, for us to exist, for us to go on," she said.

'We're going to have a festering environmental disaster'

For the last few years, Larry Wuest has made it his mission to inform himself about the Sisson mine and try to do everything he can to fight the project from being built.

Larry Wuest says the proposed Sisson mine would put the area's land and water at risk. (CBC)
"My prediction is, even if this mine goes ahead, it's going to fail in five years and then we're going to have a festering environmental disaster in the upper Nashwaak [River], feeding environmental waste, forever," Wuest said.

"I feel it's the wrong mine, in the wrong place, at the wrong time and I'm adamantly opposed to it," Wuest said.

Wuest said he is concerned billions of litres of wastewater could end up in the river if the Sisson mine tailings pond ever leaked.

"If it fails, we'll see a disaster here, like we've seen in Mount Polley this summer in B.C. and that went down 30 to 50 kilometres downstream," Wuest said.

The breach of the tailings pond dam at the copper and gold mine released 25 million cubic metres of contaminated water and mining waste into creeks and rivers.

"I guess the crux of the matter is I perceived a big company coming in, posing a significant threat and not caring much about their impact," Wuest said.

Northcliff Resources, the company behind the Sisson mine proposal, emphasizes it's taking all steps possible to prevent any problems with the mine.

'It's potentially the survival of our community'

Stanley Mayor Mark Foreman has always called the village home. But he says it's a much different place than it once was.

"When I grew up in the community, we had four service stations, we have none now. We had six grocery stores, we have one," Foreman said.

"Without growth and families coming in, and employment here, you lose. And once you start losing things, you never get it back. It's the history of rural New Brunswick."

Foreman has heard concerns from the community about the mine, but he said he thinks the project is necessary to give Stanley a fighting chance at a future.

"We can't sell ourselves out, but at the same time, you have to look long term and how we have to sustain ourselves ... If jobs are available, people are either going to come back or go to them," Foreman said.

"In the long run, it's potentially the survival of our community."

'You hate to see your community die'

Will the Sisson mine ever be built? It's a question Lawrence and Sharon Green have asked themselves many times over the years.

Sharon and Lawrence Green have dinner at Billy's Family Restaurant in Stanley. (CBC)
They keep hearing about the project, but they're unsure whether it will actually ever happen.

"It would be a great thing for the community, but we haven't seen anything much happen yet," Lawrence Green said.

Sharon Green said she hopes the proposed mine could keep young people in the rural village.

"If they do get started than maybe we'll have the youth staying in here and total families aren't moving out west for jobs and not coming back," she said.

"It's also breaking up the community is what it's doing."

Stanley's future doesn't look very good without the Sisson mine, according to the Greens.

"You hate to see your community die. You like to see it stay vibrant, and I hope it will," he said.

About the Author

Julianne Hazlewood is a multi-media journalist who's worked across the country at CBC newsrooms as a host, VJ, reporter and producer.

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