Penobsquis, New Brunswick – A group of Penobsquis homeowners are taking action against PotashCorp for damages resulting from their mining activities.
Since discussions with the government of New Brunswick and PotashCorp Inc. have failed to adequately address concerns, these residents are forced to take the next step as directed by the Mining Act, and have filed a claim with the Mining Commissioner.
Sixty water wells have been lost in the Penobsquis area affecting upwards of 200 people. In 2004, wells were lost at the same time that PotashCorp was conducting a round of seismic testing. Residents reported hearing and seeing the blasts that are a part of seismic testing, and noticing dirty water, or total loss of water not long afterwards.
Residents believe the blasting created cracks in the ground that allowed the water that fed their wells to flow into the mine. There were several factors that led to this conclusion. Firstly, many noted that their wells and homes seemed to be almost directly over mine workings. As well, water inflow into the mine increased at the same time as wells experienced problems. Currently, water inflow is believed to be 1,300 gallons of water per minute.
As a result, many homeowners drilled new or deepened existing wells, replaced pumps, and incurred other expenses. After years of suffering with delivered water that was inadequate in supply and quality, residents now have additional costs and liabilities associated with the newly constructed water system. This system now requires that the residents pay a yearly fee for water that exceeds what many communities pay for water and sewage – a resource that was previously virtually free as the costs had already been incurred to drill the wells upon which they depended. Interestingly enough, the largest customer of this new system, constructed with tax dollars, is the PotashCorp mine itself.
The removal of the water from the mine is causing the ground to settle and shift even more than is expected from normal mine operations. This land movement is causing damage to homes and property.
In addition to water loss and land movement, residents suffer from dust, noise and light pollution, lost property values, stress, and other issues.
"We respect that they have the right to mine potash," says group spokesperson Beth Nixon. "We do believe it is obvious the water going into their mine has drained our wells."
There are subsidence monuments in people's front yards, and the uncertainty and existing damage is causing property values to decrease.
"It seems we are expected to lose what we've invested and incur additional costs for damages inflicted by industry.
We want to see standards set which would ensure mining companies are held accountable for the damage they cause."
"We don't want this to happen to any other community. If PotashCorp is not held accountable this could happen in any other community. It may not be a potash mine, but there are many proposed and ongoing projects in the province, and all have associated risks. We are not pushing to stop business from happening. We only want to ensure that these projects provide compensation if they cause damage to individuals."
For more information contact: Michel LeBlanc DesNeiges (506) 389-8999 the group's lawyer, or Beth Nixon (506) 432-6340, the group's spokesperson.