A citizens group has formed to try and counter the gold exploration and possible mining in the Cobequid Highlands. Sustainable Northern Nova Scotia, or SuNNS, presented recently to the Municipality of Colchester County and showed this graphic outlining the current closure issued by the Department of Natural Resources. Image courtesy of Sustainable Northern Nova Scotia

A new group of citizens has formed to try and counter proposed gold mining in the Cobequid Highlands.

John Perkins said Sustainable Northern Nova Scotia, or SuNNS, was created following the news article ‘Gold in the hills?’ was printed in the November 2017 edition of The Light.

“A number of residents attended a meeting of the watershed committee (after reading the article) and discovered the Department of Natural Resources had been exploring on the down low, while talking with the watershed committee. The first any of us in attendance to the meeting had heard about the exploration was the November news story,” said Perkins. “A number of us were shocked at what we heard and saw in terms of what the Department of Natural Resources had to say, and what the Department of Environment didn’t have to say (at the watershed meeting).”
Perkins said a call was put out following the meeting, and citizens came together then to form SuNNS.

“I think it’s crazy they’re even considering opening the watershed to the dirtiest mining in the world,” he said.

The primary objective of SuNNS, said Perkins, is to promote a sustainable, community-driven economy. The potential gold mining isn’t the only issue SuNNS is concerned with, but also clear cutting and potential installation of wind turbines in the Wentworth Valley, as well as Northern Pulp in Pictou County.

A press release issued by SuNNS representatives Perkins, Margaretta Sander, and Gregor Wilson, says any extractive industry developed in a watershed – gold mining or fracking – “will destroy the aquifer (drinking and ground water), the surrounding environment and the robust economic growing in North Nova.”
Numerous rivers from the closure area drain into nearby waters, such as the Northumberland Strait, Bay of Fundy, or Salmon River in Truro.

“If mining is allowed the marine habitat as well as the robust tourism this region enjoys would most likely be destroyed,” the release reads.

With the formation of SuNNS, the group has approached the Municipality of Colchester County with a presentation of their own and asked council to write a letter to the natural resources minister asking for a delay in the department’s Request for Proposals for exploration of the area. Currently the province has a closure of more than 30,000 hectares of land in the Cobequid Highlands, with the hopes of issuing an exploration RFP this spring.

During the February Colchester County committee of the whole meeting, a motion was put forward to write to the natural resources minister requesting the Request for Proposals be delayed by a year. Rob Simonds, chief administrative officer for the municipality, confirmed the motion was defeated.

“The sentiment around the table was in terms of the general community and that councilors are absolutely committed to the safety of the water,” said Simonds, adding there was a caveat to the vote that councilors want to hear from the Department of Natural Resources as to what’s being considered. A meeting is tentatively scheduled for that for March, he said.

Perkins said SuNNS was disappointed by the defeated motion, as it would have given council and citizens more time to find out more information on potential economic impacts and problems.

“Obviously we were quite disappointed,” he said. “Our presentation seems to have been unsuccessful in connecting the dots.”

Although SuNNS didn’t get the outcome it was hoping from presenting to the municipality, work will continue for the group in regards to the gold mining.

Perkins said the group has been invited to present to the Mi’kmaq Community Advisory Council, and suggestions have also been put forth to present to the Truro and Colchester Chamber of Commerce, Cumberland County council, and the provincial NDP caucus.

“We have been told the greatest chance of success against this is to make it a political issue, so we hope to mobilize some response,” he said.