For a relatively small project, Castle Resources proposed Elmtree Gold Mine in north eastern New Brunswick is raising a lot of concerns amongst local citizens. The proposed open pit mine would only operate for 1 1/2 to 2 years and extract 8.1-million tonnes of rock, which includes 1.1-million tonnes of low-grade gold ore. Though a lot of rock, this is a relatively small amount compared to other open pit mines that can extract hundreds of millions of tonnes over their operating lives.
The project is not, however, flying under the radar of local residents who are opposing the project due to their concerns about potential negative environmental and social impacts and the limited economic benefits of such a short-term project. In order to reach out to others in their community and elsewhere the citizens' group has a blog and facebook page.
Much of the concern about the project is related to its location:
- on private land close to residences;
- immediately adjacent to the village of Petit Rocher's protected watershed that supplies the community's drinking water;
- in the Atlantic salmon bearing Elmtree River watershed, with the open pit requiring relocation of a significant portion of the Southbranch Elmtree River;
- in an area of wetland habitats of ecological concern including riparian and forested wetlands.
Though the company has filed its project under federal and provincial environmental assessment laws, there has been no direct outreach from government officials to local citizens to help them understand the review process or the project proposal.
The company has said it will work to make agreements with the landowners to purchase or lease the land and have the project go forward. It appears, however, that most of them are staunchly against the project and are not interested in making deals with the company.
In a recent article in a local paper the company admitted the potential disruption to local wells and suggested it could compensate by providing a central water system for land owners.
MiningWatch Canada was invited by Bathurst Sustainable Development to speak at local meetings with municipal officials and the public in July 2011. We provided an overview of environmental assessment process, our understanding of the project and issues of concern it may raise for the local community.
Bathurst Sustainable Development, Chaleurs Bay Watersheds, and the local citizens committee have received funds totalling $50,000 for their participation in the federal comprehensive study of the project under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. MiningWatch will continue to provide support to these groups as the assessment process proceeds. The Assembly of First Nations Chiefs of New Brunswick also received funding for their participation in the assessment through an Aboriginal funding window.