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Mining association eyes Staples Brook land

Staples Brook
Staples Brook - Submitted

DEBERT, N.S.

The Mining Association of Nova Scotia (MANS) is calling on the provincial government to consider a land-swap arrangement involving protected areas that hold potential mining value.

And one such area of interest to MANS is the Staples Brook Nature Reserve, a section of the former Camp Debert, which overlaps a coal deposit that has been mined in the past and “could potentially become a future mine if it is not blocked by the land being protected.”

“When most Nova Scotians think of protected areas, they picture beautiful, pristine, natural lands,” said MANS executive director Sean Kirby, in the release.

“The truth is the protected areas plan includes many sites that do not live up to that expectation,” he added. “In the previous government’s rush to release the plan, it included sites like clear cuts, logging roads, former mines, quarries and pits, and pipelines. It even included a former weapons range that is believed to contain unexploded ordnance.”

That statement is in reference to the former Staples Brook Range in Debert, a pending protected area, which was a satellite facility of the military camp during the Second World War and was used for weapons training. Grenades, mortars, anti-tank artillery and anti-aircraft munitions were used at the range, which is now considered a medium risk for unexploded explosive ordnance, according to the Department of National Defence (DND).

In 2013, the DND Legacy Sites Program held information sessions in Debert to create awareness about the potential risks from unexploded ordnance (UXO) on the former military base.

The Legacy Sites Program was initiated in 2005 to clean up UXO on former military bases. During the 2013 information sessions, a spokesperson said about 2,500 UXOs had been discovered around the Debert property in the previous year by a company hired by the DND to search them out. Other isolated finds had also been reported in the years prior to that.

The DND also posted danger signs in 2012 warning people against entering the Staples Brook Range due to the potential for unexploded ordnance.

Kirby said MANS recently released a report which details how the protected areas plan harms dozens of potential mineral projects and makes it harder for the industry to create new jobs for Nova Scotians. The report is entitled: A Better Balance: How we can protect jobs and land for Nova Scotians.

And he suggested the provincial government could strike a better balance between protecting jobs and protecting land by adding a land swap mechanism to the protected lands regulatory regime.

“This would allow mining and quarrying companies to access protected land by purchasing land of at least equal size and ecological value outside of the protected areas and arranging for it to be protected instead,” he said.

And that in turn would ensure the total amount of protected land remains the same or grows, that the ecological value of protected lands remains the same or grows and Nova Scotians would continue to be able to access the minerals they need to create jobs and grow the economy.

Kirby said proposed land swaps could be fully regulated by the provincial government on a case-by-case basis to ensure there is a net benefit to the province. The government could even require that the land being swapped in by the company be larger and/or more ecologically valuable than the protected land being swapped out,” he said.

“This creates the potential to not only maintain but also improve the government’s portfolio of protected lands, creating a win-win for both the economy and the environment.”

According to MANS figures, approximately 5,500 people are employed in the province’s mining and quarrying industry.

 

 

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