May vows to find legal avenue to stop strip mining

By Debbie Gwynn
Cape Breton Post
Tues., Feb. 7, 2006

Sydney Mines - Elizabeth May voiced her opposition to the provincial governmentís plan to allow strip mining of coal on Cape Breton and vowed to find a legal challenge to stop the process.

The executive director of the Sierra Club of Canada spoke to well over 100 concerned citizens, Monday evening at a meeting at the new fossil centre in Sydney Mines.

"Iím really thrilled to see so many people here," said May. "I know youíre not here to hear me speak - youíre here because youíre dead set against strip mining!"

Strip mining first became an issue on Cape Breton in December 2003 after federal coal leases were turned over to the province. The Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources issued a call for proposals for four coal blocks in Birch Grove-Port Morien, Broughton, Point Aconi and Boularderie Island.

"Itís appalling to me that we could be talking in the year 2006 about opening up strip mines in Boularderie Island," said May. "This is a throwback to something we might have put up with 100 years ago, but it makes absolutely no sense in 2006."

Numerous community meetings and protests have been held, said May, and surveys have showed more than 70 per cent of those polled are against strip mining on the island.

Nevertheless, Environment and Labour Minister Kerry Morash last week issued an environmental assessment approval - the first of two approvals required for a surface coal mining project - for Pioneer Coal of Antigonish to mine at the Point Aconi site.

"We still have in this province an astonishingly stubborn government that does not seem to want to listen to the views of local communities," said May.

"The (John) Hamm government and people who promote these kinds of projects always make it look as though anyone whoís opposed to them destroying other local jobs or destroying the environment to grab some short-term advantage, is somehow against progress or has no better idea or is just against people making money.

"Iím against a company coming in here and stealing money from the fishermen and the farmers and the tourist operators who already make a decent livelihood on Boularderie Island and donít want strip mining.

"And Iím against the province of Nova Scotia telling us that itís in our best interest when theyíve got a claim of a one dollar a ton royalty.

"How come theyíre bought so cheap?"

She said Cape Breton North MLA Cecil Clarke and the next premier (a new Tory party leader will be elected this weekend) must be convinced that strip mining doesnít make any economic sense or environmental sense and it doesnít makes sense for the community.

The government must reject strip mining and change their process from pushing these mines through, she added.