St. Mary's stresses environmental safeguards for Cochrane Hill Gold Mine

Municipality seeks balanced approach

By Helen Murphy    

GUYSBOROUGH – The Municipality of the District of St. Mary's is advocating for a careful balance between environmental protection and economic development in its submission to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) about Atlantic Gold's proposal for the Cochrane Hill Gold Mine.

The agency is conducting a review to decide whether a federal environmental assessment is required for the proposed Gold Mine in the District of St. Mary's. Public comments on the matter were accepted between Oct. 9 and Oct. 29, 2018.

In its submission, the Municipality of St. Mary's contends that a full environmental assessment is required to ensure that the proposed mine operations can take place in a manner that protects the watershed for the St. Mary's River.

The St. Mary's River Association has already said it opposes the project, which would be in close proximity to the river.

In its recent submission, the municipality referred to its new 10-year strategic plan, called St. Mary's 2026, which emphasizes the importance of sustainable economic growth. This document is designed to provide direction to St. Mary's Council in finding a balanced approach between economic growth and environmental sustainability.

The municipality told the CCEA that tourism is a major economic driver in the municipality "and it is reasonable to assume that the viability of this sector is largely dependent on the health of the environment.

"One of the main attractions to the District of St. Mary's is the river," the submission states. "It attracted generations of anglers and paddlers over the years and continues to do so even with the decline in Atlantic salmon populations. Local businesses benefit from an active flow of visitors to the river, the St. Mary's River Association is engaged in an ongoing revitalization program that has resulted in visible improvements to the river and fish habitat."

The municipality notes that while it recognizes the importance of environmental protection, it is also "very much aware that economic growth is critical to the future of the community. Employment opportunities and attraction of new families to the municipality are required to support infrastructure such as hospitals and schools. For that reason, we support a balanced approach where development can proceed under strict oversight that will provide appropriate protection to environmentally sensitive areas."

With respect to Atlantic Gold's proposal for the Cochrane Hill mine, St. Mary's said it is "particularly concerned that the site is within the watershed of the St. Mary's River and the actual mining activity may occur very close to the river itself."

With trucks hauling heavy loads on the Number 7 Highway through Sherbrooke and other communities en route to the processing facility in Moose River, "the municipality is concerned about safety and potential structural impacts on the highway infrastructure."

The municipal submission also addresses future reclamation of the site. "The open pit operation, when complete, will result in a large area requiring reclamation. The reclamation should be carefully designed and closely monitored to minimize current and future environmental impacts."