St. Mary’s hears updated presentation on SMRA’s opposition to Cochrane Hill Gold Mine

By Helen Murphy    

SHERBROOKE – The St. Mary’s River Assoc. is ramping up its opposition to Atlantic Gold’s proposed Cochrane Hill Gold Project this month. Members of the SMRA made their second presentation to St. Mary’s council at its regular monthly meeting on Monday evening, Dec. 10.

According to SMRA President Scott Beaver, the group shared an updated presentation, which is also being presented to interested community groups in the District of St. Mary’s.

Beaver said he was pleased to see about 25 local residents come out to the council meeting in support of SMRA.

“Some folks had to stand,” he told The Journal Tuesday. “You could tell council members did not expect it, but welcomed everyone.

“This would be the fourth time we presented to various organizations in our community,” he said. “I would estimate about 100 people have now seen our presentation and we have one more Dec 13th at our local four-wheeler club, who have been working very hard in our area on trail systems and promoting recreational ATVing.” He said two more presentations are scheduled for the new year. The slide presentation is also available on the SMRA’s website.

Beaver said he brought his nine-year-old daughter Madeline with him to the meeting, because she “shows genuine concern about this mine coming to St. Mary’s and the effects it could and will have on our river.“

“We were more than glad to hear from them,” Warden Michael Mosher told The Journal during an interview Tuesday. “This was a very respectful group and it was very good to hear their concerns.” He said SMRA submitted some questions about the proposed development to council, and “we’re still working on those.”

Earlier this fall, the Canadian Environmental Assessment conducted a review, including public input, to determine whether a federal environmental review would be warranted for Atlantic Gold’s planned Cochrane Hill Gold Project. Determining last month that such a review is necessary, the CEAA is now inviting the public and Indigenous groups to comment on which aspects of the environment may be affected by the project and what should be examined during the environmental assessment. Comments received will be taken into consideration in finalizing the guidelines for the proponent to follow in making its application for environmental approval.

This is the second of four opportunities for the public to comment on the environmental assessment of the project. Written comments must be submitted by December 24, 2018.

Mosher said council will make a submission to the CEAA this month.

“Council has to make a decision to be for or against the mine,” said Mosher. “We need to gather information from all sources before we make that decision.” Council has also sought legal advice on the matter, he said.

Beaver said SMRA’s presentation on the project takes much of its information directly from Atlantic Gold’s project description. “We highlight things like the enormity of this operation compared to any other in the past that we may have seen here. For example the tailings pond will be a staggering 260 acres with effluent proposed to enter the Cameron lake system which flows into McKeens Brook and then into the Glenelg Lake. This lake is arguably the most important lake in the watershed.

“This is filled with fresh cold springs which provide cold deep water for Atlantic salmon, trout and turtles in the hot summer low water conditions,” said Beaver.

“This lake is essential for the survival of our St. Mary's Atlantic salmon.”

He stressed the importance of tourism, and the growing eco-tourism sector in particular, to the future of St. Mary’s. “Tourism and gold mining do not go hand and hand and we must ask the question, "will tourism be here after the gold is gone?"”

Following Beaver’s presentation, SMRA Treasurer Gwen Boutilier gave an update on the association’s NOPE (No Open Pit Excavation) campaign. The group has recently been erecting NOPE signs around St. Mary’s.

“Our council must take a stand and decide. Are we going to open our doors to gold mining or are we a tourism destination?” He said St. Mary’s cannot be both.

“I believe council will do the right thing here and listen to the people.”

Warden Michael Mosher thanked the group for presenting to council, “our diplomatic approach and obvious concern for our community and the St. Mary's River watershed,” said Beaver.