Friday, July 18, 2003 Link To Herald The Halifax Herald Limited

Coal announcement 'sadistic joke,' environmentalist says

By Matt Hunt Gardner

Sydney - Nova Scotia environmentalists spoke out Thursday against the possible revival of coal mining in Cape Breton after the province hinted it could happen soon.

"This is a cruel and sadistic joke on a depressed region of Nova Scotia," said Sydney environmentalist Bruno Marcocchio. "It's a thinly veiled election promise.

Natural Resources Minister Tim Olive announced Wednesday the province has secured the lease for the lucrative Sydney coalfields formerly held by the now-defunct Cape Breton Development Corp., a federal Crown corporation

Mr. Olive said the province will move "within weeks, if not a month" to issue a call for bids on the rights to develop several potential surface mines in industrial Cape Breton.

"The Hamm government argues that pollution from the U.S. and (elsewhere in) Canada is harming our environment, but then they completely negate those arguments by opening coal mines," said Howlan Mullally, energy co-ordinator at the Ecology Action Centre in Halifax.

The province would be promoting the destruction of landscape and air pollution if it permitted renewed mining, Mr. Mullally said.

"We continue to pollute our air with coal, mercury and sulphur emissions, jeopardizing the health of Nova Scotia," he said.

Vince Hall, a regional councillor and NDP candidate for Glace Bay, said he doesn't want to see surface mining in Donkin. It creates minimal jobs while causing maximum harm to the environment, he said Thursday.

"I'd rather see underground mining in Donkin. We have a skilled workforce here that could pick up and work immediately," he said while campaigning with NDP Leader Darrell Dexter in Reserve Mines. "We need the industry and we don't need the pollution surface mining brings."

Mr. Olive said Wednesday underground development has not been ruled out.

Mr. Marcocchio, a representative of the Sierra Club, said any kind of coal mining is disrespectful and destructive.

"It points to the fact that the province isn't concerning itself with the requirements of the Kyoto protocol. It continues to promote carbon-intensive developments , both offshore and with coal," he said.

Mr. Marcocchio says Cape Breton's "dirty coal" is particularly high in sulphur and ash and is one of the worst fuels in terms of greenhouse gas production and carbon emissions.

He said the three or four machine-operation jobs that might be created by a surface mine in Donkin don't justify the environmental impact of mining and then burning the coal.