ST. MARY’S – In the wake of a federal decision to end the environmental assessment of a proposed gold mine at Cochrane Hill, the St. Mary’s River Association (SMRA) has stepped up its campaign to protect nearby Archibald Lake from industrial use.
The organization launched a new letter-writing campaign last week through the Nova Scotia chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) – a group that describes itself as “Canada’s only charity dedicated to the protection of public land, freshwater and ocean,” – urging the public to “please make your voice heard.”
A notice on the SMRA’s Facebook page states, “Our letter-writing campaign for the protection of Archibald Lake starts now,” and directs readers to click on a link to the CPAWS website.
The online appeal asks readers to “send [the prepared] letter to Premier Tim Houston asking for permanent legal protection for Archibald Lake Wilderness Area. This letter will also be copied to Tim Halman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change; Tory Rushton, Minister of Natural Resources and Renewables; Greg Morrow, MLA for Guysborough-Tracadie; and Sean Fraser, MP for Central Nova.”
The request also notes, “It’s best if you can add a few sentences of your own, to make the letter more personal.”
Also, last week, SMRA President Scott Beaver wrote and signed two separate letters on behalf of SMRA to Houston and Halman, asking them to redouble their efforts to declare Archibald Lake as a protected wilderness area, a designation that has been under review for more than a year.
“We understand your government was not currently considering protecting of the Archibald Lake Area in part because of the possible request to mine gold in the Cochrane Hill area,” the letter states. “The Archibald Lake lands and water are adjacent to Atlantic Mining Inc.’s proposed mine and the Archibald Lake watershed was one of the possible options to access the water required by the mine.”
But, the letter continues, since “the federal government has terminated its evaluation of the Cochrane Hill site … there should be no reason to further delay the Archibald Lake lands designation.”
The Impact Assessment Agency of Canada (IAAC) confirmed late last month that the environmental assessment process for Atlantic Mining’s Cochrane Hill Gold Project under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act 2012 had been terminated for failing to provide “the required information or studies” by the deadline of Aug. 28.
In an email to The Journal earlier this month, Sarah Brannen – spokesperson for the St Barbara-owned Atlantic Gold – said the company had expected the federal regulator’s decision and had already chosen to prioritize the assessments of its two other development properties at Beaver Dam and Fifteen Mile Stream in eastern Nova Scotia over Cochrane Hill.
“In June, St Barbara Atlantic Operations submitted an extension request for the Beaver Dam and Fifteen Mile Stream projects,” she said. “These were granted on Aug. 17. St Barbara made the decision not to pursue an extension for the Cochrane Hill Gold Project.”
When asked whether the federal EA decision would affect the provincial government’s decisions regarding the status of Archibald Lake, Environment and Climate Change spokesperson Tracy Barron told The Journal earlier this month, “No decisions [about protected wilderness designation] have been made on Archibald Lake, [and] we don’t have a timeline for a decision … We have just become aware of the termination of the federal environmental assessment process for the mine, and are considering any implications.”
In its online appeal, CPAWS states, “This ecological hotspot in Guysborough County contains important aquatic and wetland ecosystems, old growth hardwood forests, and numerous species-at-risk. It’s also located within the St. Mary’s River Watershed, which provides critical habitat for Atlantic salmon and wood turtles. The St. Mary’s River Association has been working to protect this watershed for decades. They want Archibald Lake protected and so do we.”
According to its website, “With almost 60 years of success, [CPAWS is] Canada’s leader in conservation and have played a lead role in protecting over half a million square kilometres—an area bigger than the entire Yukon Territory! Our vision is that at least half of land, freshwater and ocean in Canada is permanently protected to sustain nature and people for current and future generations.”
Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal