Future of Nova Scotia protected area still uncertain after three years
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Almost three years and two governments after Archibald Lake was proposed as a wilderness area, it has still not gone before Cabinet.
The proposed Archibald Lake Wilderness area is within the foothills of Atlantic Mining Inc.’s proposed Cochrane Hill open pit mine.
If approved, it would effectively cut off the proponent from their intended source of water (Archibald Lake) for the proposed mine.
“I can advise that while no decisions have been made regarding the legal designation of this site, we are now taking the next steps required to bring this to the Provincial Cabinet for decision,” the Environment and Climate Change Minister said in a letter Tim Halman to St. Mary’s River Association President Scott Beaver on December 14.
“This includes the completion of consultation with Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq and the completion and publication of a socio-economic analysis of the impact of the designation as required by the Wilderness Areas Protection Act. These steps are expected to take a few months.”
But a draft socio-economic analysis was completed over two years ago, according to internal government emails released under the Freedom of Information Act.
A working group with representatives from the Departments of Environment, Energy and Mines and Natural Resources then began arguing in emails about whether the expertise to conduct a socio-economic study was in-house and whether the proposal for Archibald Lake as a wilderness area was a back door Possibility to close a planned mine.
“The Archibald Lake area has clearly been proposed as a barrier for protection by anti-mining individuals,” said Donald James, executive director of the Department of Energy’s Department of Geosciences and Mining, in an email.
“Eligibility would impede the development of the Cochrane Hills mine. This proposal to protect the area came after the release of a public environmental assessment report. This poses a problem and paves the way for anti-development groups to delay or halt economic opportunities for the province. “
The proposed Cochrane Hill mine faces opposition from the St. Mary’s River Association and provincial salmon conservation groups, among others.
“Archibald Lake is an important area,” Beaver said Friday.
“Over 30 rare species have been identified in the area. One of the things people don’t understand is that the lake supplies cold water that drains into Archibald’s Pool, the first deep cold-water refuge for salmon after they entered the St. Mary’s River estuary.”
According to documents filed with the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada, it would include a mile-long open-pit mine and a nearly 1-mile-long tailings pond protected by a 70-meter-tall earthen wall and less than a kilometer from the St. Marys River .
But last summer, federal regulators ended the environmental impact assessment for the project after Atlantic Mining failed to file required documents or request a deadline extension, as it did for its other proposed mines at Beaver Dam and Fifteen Mile Stream.
“Our focus is on the active operation of the Touquoy Gold Mine and ongoing environmental assessments for Fifteen Mile Stream and Beaver Dam,” Sarah Brennan, spokeswoman for St. Barbara, Atlantic Gold’s parent company, told Saltwire in a written statement at the time.
“We have the opportunity to consider important changes to the Cochrane Hill Gold Project in relation to resource confirmation, mine planning and the feedback already received from First Nations, the public and other stakeholders. The environmental assessment process is a planning tool, and we will seize this opportunity for further and ongoing engagement with First Nations, the public and other stakeholders.”
Just before Christmas, St. Barbara announced it would merge with Australian mining company Genesis to create a new company called Hoover House.
As part of this merger, Atlantic Mining and St. Barara’s operations in Papua New Guinea will be spun off into a new company called Phoenician Metals.