Nova Scotia

Colchester to vote on proposal to ban mining near drinking-water source

Municipal councillors will be holding a key vote tonight on a proposal to ban any mining activity in the area of a watershed that provides a source of drinking water for the village of Tatamagouche on Nova Scotia's north shore.

Concerns raised about French River watershed, which provides drinking water to Tatamagouche

The French River provides the source of water for the village of Tatamagouche. (Robert Short/CBC)

Municipal councillors will be holding a key vote tonight on a proposal to ban any mining activity in the area of a watershed that provides a source of drinking water for the village of Tatamagouche on Nova Scotia's north shore.

"We're looking at regulations we could bring in that we feel are in the best interest of clean water protection," said Christine Blair, the mayor of the Municipality of the County of Colchester, which includes Tatamagouche.

"We believe clean water is a fundamental right for everyone to have."

The French River watershed is located along the Northumberland Strait and begins in the Cobequid Mountains. It is near the headlands of the river in a vast site near Central New Annan, an area the province may soon open to mining following recent exploration.

The municipality is trying to beat the Nova Scotia government to the punch before any mining proposal comes out. For over a year now the municipality's watershed protections committee has been working on getting those lands protected.

But even if the proposal to protect the lands is passed, it will still have to be approved by the Nova Scotia government because the province has jurisdiction in the matter.

Colchester Mayor Christine Blair said the lands around the French River watershed need to be protected from future mining activity. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

Energy and Mines Minister Derek Mombourquette was not available for an interview, but said in an email statement the mining sector is important to the province's economy and creates jobs in rural areas. He also said a balance must be struck.

"Nova Scotians expect a high standard of environmental protection. That's why Nova Scotia's mining and environmental legislation holds companies to a high level of responsibility that includes enforcement, public consultation and upfront security bonds," wrote Mombourquette.

"We are aware of the municipality's motion, and we will continue to work with council and local residents."

While the minister's statement does not say which way the province would move forward on the lands, people who live in the Tatamagouche area have already been through an extensive consultation process and the municipality says the majority do not support any mining in the area.

"I think it would be an unwise political move to not respect the wishes of the people of the municipality," said John Perkins, a member of Sustainable Northern Nova Scotia, a group that works to ensure environmentally sustainable, locally driven economic and community development in northern Nova Scotia.

"I think any minister would want to think long and hard before issuing any kind of mining permit."

Atlantic Gold's Touquoy open-pit mine site in Moose River, N.S. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

There is only one active gold mine in Nova Scotia, the Touquoy site in Moose River on the province's Eastern Shore.

Blair said the municipality of Colchester is simply acting according to rules laid out by the province regarding drinking water supplies.

"This is protected water, it's a supply area that comes under the Environment Act," said Blair. "We have to fulfil certain obligations for the protection of our watershed under the Environment Act, that's what we work under."

The village of Tatamagouche boasts a brewery on its main street as well as a butcher shop, a chocolate company, restaurants and cafés. It also has a hospital, seniors apartments and a nursing home.

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