At least half of the 27,000 claims in 2022 were seeking the metal used in batteries
Catherine Morasse, CBC News
For as long as she has lived in New Ross, Nova Scotia, Ruth Veinotte has seen different prospectors come and go.
What they seek has changed through time, says the woman who has lived in the Lunenburg County community for 67 years. From manganese, which was exploited until the 1930s, the region later drew exploration for tin, uranium and other minerals.
Veinotte looks across the rural landscape that has drawn such interest as she finishes refuelling her pickup truck on the community's quiet main road.
It was no surprise to her, she says, that a company purchased claims covering nearly 114,000 hectares of land in and around New Ross in 2022. An informal network of neighbours spread the word: "They're looking for lithium!"
That company, Montreal-based Brunswick Exploration, is among the corporations and individuals that have generated a strong increase in the sale of mineral claims in Nova Scotia in 2022.
MiningWatch Canada calls for more transparency
It's unclear how the uptick in mining claims might affect people living nearby.
A number of environmental groups and municipal councillors declined interviews, saying they didn't know enough about what is going on in the area.
Rodrigue Turgeon, a lawyer and the national program co-lead at MiningWatch Canada, says this is a cause for concern.
"Markets are pushing exploration companies to quickly and massively acquire claims, but this is done in silence, in total opacity. Once people learn about it, they face people who are there for their own interests," he says.
Turgeon, who is responsible for Quebec and the Maritimes at MiningWatch Canada, is calling on Nova Scotia to change its laws in order to consult local populations and to include them in decision processes before claims are sold.
"Being consulted and being part of the solution is a desire from the population. When precedence to the mining industry is granted, it's like coming to tell people, 'Forget all the dreams you had for the future of the place you cherish. We arrive with a project that involves multinationals,' and local people are left out of this planning," he says.
Veinotte hopes land owners know their rights.
"In rural areas like this, a lot of the people are older or maybe don't have a high education level or exposure outside the community.... I've tried to educate myself to know what I have to allow and what I don't have to allow, but I would say the majority of people have no idea."
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