Fool’s gold: the resource curse strikes Nova Scotia (Part 4)

 This is the last in a series of four articles on the 21st century push for mining and quarrying in Nova Scotia. Earlier versions of these articles appeared in May and June 2018 in the Halifax Examiner and the Cape Breton Spectator. (I am pleased to say that this series of four articles has been shortlisted for an Atlantic Journalism Award in Excellence in Digital Journalism: Enterprise/Longform.)

How the mining lobby is working to undermine environmental protection in Nova Scotia

Photo courtesy Paul Strome

On a cold day in late November 2017 a couple of dozen people gathered near Kellys Mountain in Victoria County, on Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island, for the first in a series of protests over possible mining or quarrying on the mountain.

They were reacting to comments from the executive director of the Mining Association of Nova Scotia (MANS), Sean Kirby, that mineral deposits on Kellys Mountain were “blocked forever” because they were locked underneath the Kluscap Wilderness Area, which had been created in 2015.

According to MANS, Cape Breton’s economy was being “harmed” by protected wilderness areas, losing out on 80 jobs that could be created if a quarry were allowed on Kellys Mountain, where there were 2 billion tonnes of aggregate.[1]

Outraged by Kirby’s suggestions that part of the protected area could be swapped for another piece of land so that Kluscap Mountain could be opened up for quarrying, members of the First Nation organization, Reclaim Turtle Island, organized the demonstration on Highway 105, with support from the Council of Canadians.

The majority of participants were First Nations activists and Warriors, who came from all over the province, including Waycobah, Port Hawkesbury, Sydney, Halifax and Sipekne’katik.[2]

Speaking to CTV during the November 25 protest, Suzanne Patles said that the mountain is sacred to her people, the departure point for Kluscap, and home to the Kluscap Cave where the Mi’kmaq perform ceremonies.

Another protest on December 16 drew about 40 people, who gathered on Seal Island Bridge.

In a telephone interview, Madonna Bernard of Waycobah First Nation, tells me that the police helped control traffic on the bridge while the demonstrators conducted a ceremony for Kluscap Mountain.

Photo courtesy of Paul Strome

“We offered the police tobacco as a peace offering,” she says. “We are not protesters. We are protectors.”

Amanda Rekunyk led another event the same day, this one in Halifax Regional Municipality. Her group delivered copies of Mi’kmaq Peace and Friendship Treaties to the MANS headquarters in Ingramport.

Speaking to APTN’s Justin Brake about the protests, Kirby said that he had read the Treaties, engaged some Mi’kmaq leaders, and “made some requests of Mi’kmaq representatives for meetings.”

Rekunyk wasn’t impressed.

“I don’t trust them. I don’t trust their relationship with this [provincial] Liberal government,” she told APTN. “They need to know that consultation isn’t with the KMK [Kwilmu’kw Ma-klusuaqn Negotiation Office, or KMKNO], it isn’t with the Band and Council, it’s with Treaty people, it’s with grassroots people, it’s with the grandmothers, it’s with Mi’kma’ki.”[3]

Elder Elizabeth Marshall of Eskasoni First Nation tells me that it was the “arrogance” of the Mining Association in suggesting there should be a quarry on Kluscap Mountain that spurred First Nations water protectors into action. Marshall says Kluscap is as sacred to the Mi’kmaq as a Catholic graveyard is to Catholics.

She says that Kluscap Mountain may be “safe for now,” but that the threat to sacred lands remains, no matter what politicians say.

In early December 2017, Premier Stephen McNeil told APTN that the MANS reports, which called for land swaps that would allow for mining and quarrying in mineral-rich protected areas, had not crossed his desk.

A month earlier, Bruce Nunn, spokesperson for the Department of Natural Resources, told The Chronicle Herald that such “land-swap proposals” were “not being considered at this time.”

Nevertheless, Elizabeth Marshall says, “I don’t think we can relax.”

Protecting Nova Scotia

Before MANS decided in 2017 to get a “dialogue” going on protected areas, few seem to have been questioning the value of the wilderness areas.

According to Raymond Plourde, Wilderness Coordinator at the Ecology Action Centre, targets for protected lands date back to the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, when Canada joined other nations in pledging to protect 12 per cent of its terrestrial area.

In 1994, with just 3 per cent of its land protected, Nova Scotia undertook an intensive planning process to identify diverse and representative landscapes and ecosystems for protection.[4] In 1998, the government passed the Wilderness Areas Protection Act, with 31 areas designated as protected.

The Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act was passed in 2007, which mandated the province to protect 12 per cent of its land. At that point, only 7 per cent was protected.

Then in 2010, 168 nations, Canada among them, committed to raising the international target for terrestrial protection to 17 per cent by 2020, as part of the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Secretariat of which is located in Montreal. According to UN Environment, preserving biodiversity is important for “reducing hunger and poverty, improving human health, and ensuring a sustainable supply of energy, food and clean water.”

By 2014, a quarter of UN member countries had passed the 17 per cent target for land protection. Canada did not number among them.

To date, Canada has protected 10.5 per cent of its terrestrial area (land and freshwater), putting it well behind far less wealthy countries, such as Namibia (43 per cent protected) and Venezuela (53 per cent), and more densely populated countries such as Germany (48 per cent).

Nova Scotia, although nowhere near the UN targets, has been playing catch-up. In 2013, with the backing of both opposition parties, the NDP government released the parks and protected areas plan, which increased the goal for protection to 13 per cent.

By 2017, Nova Scotia had managed to place 12.39 per cent of its land under protection as wilderness areas, nature reserves and provincial parks. [5]

Article 4 04a photo Black Duck prov park Karlheinz Eyrich

Black Duck provincial park in Guysborough County is a small coastal protected area not far from the larger Canso Coastal Barrens Wilderness Area. Photo courtesy Karlheinz Eyrich

The government of Nova Scotia acknowledges the value of protected areas. According to the Department of Environment, they conserve biodiversity, protect watersheds and soils, and shield us from natural disasters. They are also important for “research and education, and contribute significantly to local and regional economies, most obviously from tourism and recreation,” including activities such as camping, sport fishing, and hunting.

MANS campaign to undermine (and mine) protected lands

Apparently, that “economic importance” of protected areas escaped the notice of MANS executive director Sean Kirby. In 2017, he began a campaign to undermine the protected areas plan in the name of mining and quarrying.

MANS issued a series of press releases claiming that parts of the province were being “harmed” by protected areas that were costing jobs and money. He specifically targeted Cumberland and Colchester counties, the Eastern Shore, and Cape Breton.

In the press releases, Kirby called on the provincial government to “Strike a better balance between protecting land and protecting jobs.” Some news releases resulted in newspaper articles.

MANS also sent letters to several municipal councils, with mixed results.

Victoria Municipal Council in Cape Breton, for example, didn’t appear enthusiastic. At its October 30, 2017 meeting, council “tabled” the MANS correspondence, meaning it was postponing any discussion of it. According to council minutes from the next meeting in November:

“Warden Morrison advised that additional correspondence has been received from Shawn [sic] Kirby, Mining Association of Nova Scotia, with regard to protected areas, a land swap policy, mineral exploration and the effect on the economy.”

Council decided that this matter was “not the County’s to fight” and again, tabled the correspondence.

Screenshot of Mining Association of Nova Scotia website.

MANS’ lobbying received a much warmer welcome in the Municipality of the District of Guysborough (MODG) in eastern Nova Scotia.

The MODG council issued its own news release expressing concern about the protected area targets,[6] saying MANS’ proposal provided an “opportunity to reset our priorities” and that council “stands with MANS in its call for the Province of Nova Scotia to revisit it’s [sic] policy related to Parks and Protected Lands and strike a balance between land protection and the elimination of economic opportunities in rural Nova Scotia. ”[7]

“Mineral exploration and development offers [sic] a significant opportunity to address the population decline through its root‐cause [sic] – employment,” read the MODG press release.

Fogarty’s Cove – Protect or quarry?

The MODG’s response surprised no one who remembered the council’s opposition to protected areas back in 2000, particularly one proposed for a piece of land that – seven years later – would be drilled in preparation for a quarry.

This wasn’t just any old piece of land. It was a parcel of coastal area about 12km from the town of Canso, boasting spectacular granite cliffs and hidden beaches on Chedabucto Bay, including locations identified on maps as Black Point and Fogerty Head. A piece of land immortalized by Stan Rogers, the Canadian folk legend who died in a fiery plane crash in 1983, [8] in his 1976 song “Fogarty’s Cove.”

Rogers’ mother’s family has been in the area for more than 200 years. He and his brother Garnet Rogers, also an acclaimed songwriter and musician, spent their summers in the area.

Their aunt, June Jarvis, recalls that back in 1994, when the provincial government first released an initial plan for new parks and protected areas, she was delighted to see important wetlands in the area were candidates for protection.[9]

In 1999, a group of concerned citizens in the Canso area started to canvas people in Guysborough County to gauge interest in having 160 ha around Black Point and Fogerty’s Head designated as protected.

They found support for the idea, and to promote it, formed a group called the Fox Island Wilderness Association. According to a former member who wishes to remain anonymous, it looked at first as if the Wilderness Association had the support of Guysborough County council, which wrote a letter agreeing in concept with the proposal.[10]

But when the group later presented council a petition with more than 1,000 signatures endorsing the proposal, things changed.

Then-warden of the Guysborough municipality, Lloyd Hines (now Member of the Legislative Assembly or MLA for the area, and Nova Scotia’s Minister of Transport and Infrastructure Renewal), opposed the proposal. According to a February 21, 2000 article in The Daily News, Hines maintained that local residents were concerned that the Act would restrict hunting, camping and ATV use.

But if local residents had really had such concerns, Hines could have assuaged them by informing them that they were wrong. Camping, angling and hunting are permitted in protected areas, and specific routes have also been designated in some wilderness areas for ATVs and snowmobiles.

Article 4 04c Ship Harbour Long Lake W A, Halifax County courtesy Irwen Barrett

Ship Harbour Long Lake Wilderness Area in Halifax County, Nova Scotia. Photo courtesy of Irwen Barrett

Nevertheless, Hines prevailed and “Fogarty’s Cove” remained unprotected. In 2007, drilling began in the area to determine whether it could become a source of granite aggregate, and the municipality rezoned it as heavy industrial.[11]

In 2011, things began to move quickly. The municipality arranged to acquire about 324 acres of Crown land near Black Point through a land swap with the province.

Private landowners in the area, including Jim Fogarty who was the guardian of the 40-ha parcel of land at Black Point that had been in the family since 1858, were approached and asked about the land by someone claiming to be from the municipality. Later, a lawyer called to offer Fogarty $15,555 as his share of the Fogarty land. He said no.

What happened after that is both murky and mired in controversy – a convoluted saga well documented by The Globe and Mail and The Chronicle Herald.

To make a long story short, Jim Fogarty was invited to a municipal council meeting in October 2013, where he watched helplessly as the council voted to expropriate the Fogarty land, paving the way for a quarry.

After the expropriation, two other members of the Fogarty family, Brian and Frank, began a long and passionate struggle, which continues to this day, to investigate and fight the municipality’s decision to expropriate the Fogarty land for the quarry project.

Screenshot of the map quarry areas from Black Point documents on the website of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.

It takes several hours for Brian Fogarty to summarize for me the findings of his and his brother’s years of investigation. The only thing clear at the end of his painstakingly detailed account is that nothing is clear about the way the project has evolved.

The company originally involved in the quarry project was Erdene Resources Development Corp. of Dartmouth, which also held a 25 per cent position in the Donkin coal mine project.

Erdene spun off a separate company, Morien Resources, which took over both the quarry and the mine. projects. Morien subsequently struck a deal with Vulcan Materials Company of Alabama, USA, which became the proponent of the quarry, forming a new subsidiary, Black Point Aggregates, to oversee it. Black Point Aggregates registered the quarry project with the Nova Scotia Department of Environment for a Class I environmental assessment in 2015, and with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) in 2014.

On signing the deal in April 2014, Vulcan paid Morien $1 million for the quarry rights, another $400,000 in April 2016 following environmental approvals from the federal and provincial governments, and Morien is due another $400,000 when all permitting agreements are in place.

Morien’s vice president technical and government affairs, Mike MacDonald, joined the Erdene in 2011, after leaving his position as executive director of the Mineral Resources Branch in the Nova Scotia’s Department of Natural Resources, where he had been in charge of “co-ordinating policy and planning to guide the development, management, conservation and protection of Nova Scotia’s mineral resources.[12]

In 2013, Lloyd Hines, who had opposed Black Point becoming a protected area and backed the quarry project while he was warden in Guysborough, was elected as MLA for the area, appointed Minister of Natural Resources the following year.

The provincial environmental approval stipulated that the approval holder (Vulcan subsidiary Black Point Aggregates) must begin work on the quarry by 26 April 2018. That didn’t happen.

In an email, Atisthan Roach, manager of community and government relations for Vulcan, told me that the company has obtained a two-year extension and that work at the quarry must now start on or before April 2020.

Quoting Frank Leith, vice president of Black Point Aggregates, she wrote, “The target market conditions for crushed stone from Black Point location are still short of our original expectations.” And, “While conditions are not yet ready for Black Point Aggregates to break ground, we maintain our strong interest in the project.”

She confirmed that Vulcan Materials leases the land for the proposed quarry from the Municipality of the District of Guysborough, but said the company does not publicly disclose the amount it pays.

CAO of MODG, Barry Carroll, told me in an email that the Black Point project area is 932 acres (377 ha), but would not disclose the terms of the lease, saying they were “commercially confidential.”

The council of Guysborough County has always supported this project, and seems intent on pinning its hopes to large projects to help balance its flagging budget. The strong local support for the project hinges on promises that it will create 60 jobs and that Vulcan will invest between $80 and $110 million in the area.

But there has always been opposition to the project, although not everyone who opposes it is willing to say so publicly.

Citizen concerns

Garnet Rogers is one who is. Painfully aware of the unemployment and out-migration plaguing the area, Rogers has a great deal of empathy for people in Guysborough County.

“If I thought this [proposed quarry] would really bring jobs … help friends of mine that only see their kids or grandkids once a year when they come home from Fort McMurray… then I would say blow the sucker [granite cliff] up,” he tells me.

But Rogers is sceptical about the number of jobs the quarry would provide. “You can’t get a straight answer out of anybody,” he says. “When it was first talked about, it was 30 to 40 jobs. Then it was 60, then 90 local jobs … then during some meeting, someone mentioned, ‘Well it’s going to be 170 jobs’.”

There is no guarantee, Rogers says, that Alabama-based Vulcan won’t bring in its own people to run equipment. He worries about the effect the marine terminal and traffic will have on Chedabucto Bay and marine life, and how such a quarry would affect Canso’s water supply and air.

Halfway Cove on Chedabucto Bay, a few km from the proposed Black Point quarry. Photo by Joan Baxter

For Garnet Rogers, the Black Point quarry is a symptom of a larger problem in Guysborough County – and all of Nova Scotia – where he says governments allow foreign companies to come in and “despoil the place and make money that doesn’t stay behind.”

His aunt, June Jarvis, has always been an outspoken critic of the quarry. Referring to local politicians and officials who have pushed the project, she says, “I’m too old to be scared of these guys.” She scoffs at the notion that council rejected the proposal to protect the area back in 2000 because citizens complained to Warden Hines. “Since when did people complaining carry any weight?” she asks.

MANS power

Jarvis sent me a copy of the “proposed systems plan for parks and protected areas in Nova Scotia” that the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) published back in 1994. It is a 20-page broadsheet that makes a scientific case for establishing protected areas, and is based on a three-year inventory and evaluation of crown lands that remain intact as significant natural areas.[13]

“Since when did people complaining carry any weight?” June Jarvis

In the report, DNR painstakingly documents the ecological, scientific, educational, economic, social, cultural and spiritual benefits of protecting a modest 8 per cent of the province. It lists and profiles the diverse candidate areas, with evidence as to why each warranted protection.

On the question of minerals, it states, “Potential candidate protected area boundaries have been adjusted to exclude existing mineral rights commitments that are situated on the periphery of candidate areas and that do not overlap directly with significant natural values (proposed candidate areas depicted in this document reflect these adjustments).”[14]

And, it says, “Claims located within candidate protected areas that cannot be accommodated through boundary adjustments will be held in good standing and considered as a nonconforming use.”

The report proposed a year-long process for approving the wilderness protected areas plan that would involve: a consultation phase; a public review committee to receive, review and summarize public comment for the minister; meetings with interested groups and organizations; a period of public comment; public meetings to be followed by a summary of public comments; additional consultation; then a first consultation phase followed by a second consultation process.[15]

But all this proceeded a little more slowly than DNR had foreseen.

It would be 1999 before the Wilderness Areas Protection Act was finally passed. It took another eight years before the Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act was passed, which mandated a 12 per cent goal for protection. And it wasn’t until 2015 that Nova Scotia met that goal.

It’s safe to say that the process to identify and protect this relatively small percentage of the province’s land for nature – and future generations – was long, meticulously researched, and complex.

Protected wilderness areas such as this one at Gully Lake in northern Nova Scotia provide ecological, scientific, educational, economic, social, cultural and spiritual benefits. Photo courtesy Irwen Barrett

In an email, Gretchen Fitzgerald, national program director for the Sierra Club Canada Foundation, writes, “You could not have greater science and public dialogue used to designate our protected areas in Nova Scotia.”

So it’s not clear why, in 2017, MANS decided to challenge it all, first in its report, “A Better Balance: How we can Protect Jobs and Land for Nova Scotians,” then in an unrelenting campaign criticizing the process of protecting the province’s lands, [16] a campaign Fitzgerald describes as “ill-conceived” and the “wrong battle to pick … by an industry advocacy group looking for a battle where there was none.”

It is telling that in October 2017, while Sean Kirby was busy peddling the notion that protected wilderness areas were somehow lost economic opportunities, Nova Scotia Environment published a report done by Gardner Pinfold Consultants that highlighted the economic benefits of protected lands, and recommended ways to increase them.

“There is a broad range of commercial activities that occur in association with protected areas in Nova Scotia. Most are businesses that derive income from offering services that either make direct use of protected areas (e.g. kayak outfitters, hunting guides) or that benefit from indirect relationships with protected areas (e.g. accommodations operators, camps, educators, and other non-profits). . .
Interviews with key stakeholders resulted in the identification of a core set of benefits, associated with the commercial use and development of protected areas in the province, including:
• The creation of a positive investment climate.
• Their contribution to the Nova Scotia tourism
• The generation of business revenue through
direct attraction of clients.
• Their support of unique business models.”

What evidence did MANS executive director Sean Kirby have to claim repeatedly in op-eds, that the selected areas were not “ecologically unique” and that economic impacts had not been “sufficiently taken into account when the lands were chosen”?

I asked Kirby that question in an email. I have yet to receive a response.

So I decided to follow the money: who would benefit from opening up protected areas for mining and quarrying, and how much would they stand to make? This meant taking a closer look at the Mining Association of Nova Scotia.

Finding a better balance … sheet?

MANS currently has 88 members: 16 “producers,” 47 in “consulting, service, supply,” 14 in “exploration,” and 11 individuals. The list reads like a who’s who of Nova Scotia’s legal and consulting firms, mining and quarrying giants operating in the province (or planning to), and both foreign and local companies busy trying to find gold in our hills and valleys and watersheds.

It goes without saying that members support MANS because the more it is able to influence policy and convince policymakers to reduce restrictions and regulations around mineral extraction, the more access extractive industries will have to underground resources.

The easier it is for extractive industries to get at those resources by removing obstacles (people who don’t want to give up their land) and overburden (trees, soil and vegetation) on the surface, the more chance the mining companies, their lawyers, consultants and service industries will have to profit. Handsomely.

Consider, for example, the example of MANS member Stantec. Stantec is a consulting firm with 400 locations on six continents and 250 offices in Canada and the US – including three in Nova Scotia alone. The giant consulting company has some powerful corporate clients. Stantec does the stack emissions tests for the Northern Pulp mill in Pictou County, and recently did the preliminary “receiving water study” for the mill’s plan to dispose of effluent through a pipe into the Northumberland Strait. Stantec also designed the tailings management system for Atlantic Gold’s open pit Touquoy gold mine.

Vulcan Materials, which has yet to start its Black Point quarry in Guysborough, is another MANS member. So is Kameron Collieries, which owns and operates the recently re-opened Donkin coal mine in Cape Breton (in the news for its safety violations), and Martin Mariette Materials, which operates the quarry that is devouring Porcupine Mountain on the mainland end of the Canso Causeway, and exporting the aggregate it carves out of the cliffs there.

Morien Resources, which sold off the Black Point quarry to Vulcan but still collects royalties for the Donkin Coal Mine, is also a member. In fact, Morien CEO Dawson Brisco is on the MANS board of directors.

Also on the board is Peter Oram, a “senior environmental specialist” with GDH, a consulting firm that works with Atlantic Gold – also a MANS member. Oram was on hand to provide information at the open house Atlantic Gold held in Sherbrooke in late March about its proposed open-pit gold mine in Cochrane Hill. More recently, Stephen McNeil’s Liberal government named Oram as one of four members of the newly created Biodiversity Council to develop a new biodiversity act.

MANS board member, Gordana Slepcev, is chief operating officer for Anaconda Mining, which intends to operate an open-pit gold mine in Goldboro.

And so it goes.

Of course, all of this is absolutely standard practise. Industries create and pay associations to speak for them. Members pay their dues, and the industry group plays their tune, trying to influence public opinion and shape government policies to suit industry needs.

For the same reason, wealthy industrialists and corporations also support or run free-market “think tanks” (masquerading as charities), such as the Atlantic Institute of Marketing Studies (AIMS).[17] AIMS, not surprisingly, echoes MANS’ messaging about the need for a “balance” between conservation and economic development, freeing the province from pesky legislation and regulations that protect its land and water.

Like MANS, AIMS encourages land swaps to allow for mineral extraction in Nova Scotia’s protected wilderness areas.

Will government protect the protected areas?

For now, to its credit, the NS government has not caved in to industry lobbying to open up protected lands for mining and quarrying.

But that doesn’t mean it is doing all it can to fulfill the commitment to protecting 13 percent of the province, or adequately protect the environment: of the 169 projects submitted to the Department of Environment for environmental review since 2000, in addition to three that are under review, only two have been rejected.[18]

It also looks as if Premier Stephen McNeil’s cabinet is dragging its feet in legally designating some key lands that have been slated for protection for years.

One of these is a parcel of 1,899 ha of land covered by magnificent hardwood forest and lakes and ponds in the Wentworth Valley. This piece of land is part of an odd 2010 loan and land deal between the NDP government and Northern Pulp. The provincial government loaned Northern Pulp $75 million towards its purchase of 475,000 acres (192,226 ha) of land that had originally belonged to Scott Maritimes, the first owner of the Pictou pulp mill. As part of the same deal, Nova Scotia then bought 55,000 acres (22,258 ha) back from Northern Pulp for $16.5 million. While Northern Pulp paid $172.63 per acre, the province paid Northern Pulp $300 per acre.

The justification offered for this deal was that most of the land Nova Scotians bought back from Northern Pulp (having just loaned the company the money to buy it) was “slated for protection.” The proposed Wentworth Valley Wilderness Area was one of these. Today, it has still not been legally protected because of “mineral rights.”

The Nova Scotia Registry of Claims “NovaROC” map of mineral claims in the province shows no active mineral rights in the Wentworth “candidate” protected area. However, more than half of it does fall inside the 30,000-ha (74,132-acre) “enclosure area” established by DNR while it did its own gold prospecting in the Cobequid Hills of northern Nova Scotia [see Part 3 of this series]. DNR intends to issue a Request for Proposals to invite exploration companies to explore for gold in that enclosure area.

The NovaROC map also shows that the Economy River and the Portapique River Wilderness Areas in northern Nova Scotia are both candidates for expansion. Most of the areas slated for inclusion in the wilderness areas have no mineral rights, although some do. And there is on-going gold exploration on crown land between the two protected area.[19]

Chilean Metals is drilling for gold near Gamble Lake, north of Bass River in Colchester County. The company holds dozens of mineral licenses along the Bay of Fundy shore, from Bass River to Fox River, some of which border protected wilderness areas. Photo courtesy Krista Fulton

There’s no evidence that the government’s recent push for mineral exploration, mining and quarrying in Nova Scotia is behind the delay in protecting these areas, and meeting the 13 per cent goal in the province. But there are reasons to think it may be.

As this “Fool’s Gold” series has made clear, the provincial Liberal government has increased the amount of financial assistance available for mineral resources development in Nova Scotia and cut “red tape” in new mining legislation. DNR has also gone to great lengths to promote the province as a destination for mining and exploration companies from around the world.

Recently, DNR also hosted a meeting in Halifax to help develop the Canadian Minerals and Metals Plan (CMMP). Although the “plan” was created and funded by the federal government, provinces and the territories, it could hardly be more industry-friendly. Among its goals are “unlocking Canada’s resource potential,” “igniting innovation in mining,” and “providing regulatory certainty in mining,” which sounds like a euphemism for making mining companies happy by easing regulations.

The CMMP website hosts an infantile mining quiz that seems designed to distract from risks that large-scale mining can pose to the environment, by asking questions such as, “In Marvel’s blockbuster Black Panther, what is the name of the fictional metal that is mined in the fictional country of Wakanda?”

The Halifax meeting was organized and hosted by Nova Scotia’s DNR, New Brunswick’s Energy and Resources Development, and Natural Resources Canada, ostensibly as part of a process to develop the CMMP’s “vision” into a plan, which “will involve the federal, provincial and territorial governments, industry, Indigenous peoples, academia, NGOs and Canadians [sic].”[20]

No NGOs attended the Halifax meeting, nor was there any media coverage – DNR told me that there would be “no opportunities for media to interact with participants” at the meeting.

One citizen whose request to attend the meeting was accepted by DNR was John Perkins of the citizens’ group Sustainable Northern Nova Scotia (SuNNS), which has been working to prevent mineral exploration in the watershed for the Tatamagouche Water Utility (Article 3 in this series).

Perkins told me that the executive director of DNR’s Geoscience and Mines Branch, Don James, handpicked three speakers at the event – one of whom was Sean Kirby of MANS. Other participants represented industry, government or academia.

The Canadian Minerals and Metals Plan, Perkins says, is “by industry, for industry and by the Mineral and Mines Branch of Natural Resources Canada.”

The CMMP meeting was eventually derailed by First Nations interveners, who put participants on notice that they were on unceded Mi’kma’ki territory that was not open for mining. Organizers then ended the meeting early.

The Canadian Minerals and Metals Plan is perhaps the best evidence that governments in Canada – both provincial and federal – have become handmaidens to the mining industry, rather than regulators whose role is to protect the environment and citizens from the harm extractive industries can do, or protect wilderness areas in perpetuity, as they have committed to do.

Moving backwards?

Mark Parent was Nova Scotia’s environment minister in 2007 when the Progressive Conservative government of Premier Rodney MacDonald passed the Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act, mandating the protection of 12 per cent of the province.

In a phone interview, Parent told me he thinks that Nova Scotia has now missed the opportunity to embrace a green economy vision, embodied in that Act, which genuinely “marries economy and the environment.”

He believes Nova Scotia should not be chasing the huge mega-projects it so loves chasing after (and which nearly always fail to materialize). Rather, he told me the province should focus on numerous smaller enterprises that employ far fewer people, but that are more sustainable.

In Parent’s view, the 2014 Ivany Report, meant to be a blueprint for economic development in Nova Scotia, with its endorsement of resource extraction was a step backwards from the vision of a green economy.

Asked about the provincial government’s determination to promote and support more mining and quarrying in Nova Scotia, Parent echoes the words of many citizens who have spoken to me about the issue.

“I think we are moving backwards,” he says.

After months of researching mining in Nova Scotia for this series of articles, I fear Mark Parent is right.

This is the final article in the “Fool’s gold” series.

[1] MANS press release. November 14, 2017. Cape Breton’s economy harmed by protected areas. [accessed May 23, 2018]

[2] Anne Levesque (Council of Canadians, Inverness). May 23, 2018. Written account of the 3 actions in 2018 to protect Kluscap Mountain.

[3] A email request for an interview on mining and quarrying in Nova Scotia was made to Chief Terrance J. Paul, Co-Chair, Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs, with Fisheries, Mining and Finance Portfolios, and a request for a comment on the suggestion that Kluscap Mountain could be opened up for a quarry was made to Chief Roderick Googoo, Waycobah, Lands, Wildlife & Forestry Portfolios. So far, neither request has been granted.

[4] Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources. A proposed systems plan for parks and protected areas in Nova Scotia. 1994.

[5] Province of Nova Scotia, Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act 2015 – 17 Progress Report. p 3. [accessed May 26, 2018]

[6] In 2007, the Progressive Conservative government of Rodney MacDonald passed the Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act, which set a target of protecting 12% of the province.

[7] Municipality of the District of Guysborough. Proposed Changes to the Province of Nova Scotia’s Parks & Protected Areas Plan: Press Release. November 14, 2017

[8] A blurry video from the 1970s of Stan Rogers, Garnet Rogers and David Alan Eadie performing the song on location at “Fogarty’s Cove” is available at: [accessed May 31, 2018]

[9] Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources. A proposed systems plan for parks and protected areas in Nova Scotia. 1994.

[10] Some people interviewed for this article requested not to have their names used, saying that Guysborough County is a “small community,” and there is fear of repercussions from speaking out about some issues.

[11] Eva Hoare. June 25, 2014. Timeline: The Expropriation of Fogarty’s Cove. The Chronicle Herald. [accessed January 11, 2018]

[12] The president of Morien Resources, Dawson Brisco, sent the following reply to a question about company policies to ensure that privileged information that Mike MacDonald had access to while within government was kept separate from company business: “Mr. MacDonald was hired by Erdene Resource Development Corp. on September 1, 2011.  The Post Service Restrictions section of the provincial government’s Conflict of Interest policy, which deals principally with the awarding of contracts and benefits by the Nova Scotia government, stipulates that any such former government employee must not knowingly accept a contract or benefit that is awarded by a government decision maker within a 6-month period post government service. Mr. MacDonald only worked on metal exploration projects in Mongolia for Erdene for the six month period commencing on September 1, 2011. In addition to complying with the government policy for post service, Mr. MacDonald was also required to read and sign Erdene’s Code of Business Conduct and Ethics document which states that all employees ‘should not be involved in any activity that creates or gives the appearance of a conflict of interest between their personal interests and the interests of Erdene’. Mr. MacDonald is required to read and sign this document annually, first for Erdene in 2011 and since then both for Erdene and Morien since Morien’s formation in November 2012.”

[13] Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources. A Proposed Systems Plan for Parks & Protected Areas in Nova Scotia. 1994.

[14] Ibid p 15

[15] Ibid, p 20

[16] Two emails (with five questions) were sent to Sean Kirby on 26 April and 21 May 2018. He replied to only one question on May 23, informing me that the volunteers who judged the MANS “Video Rocks” film contest in NS schools were not paid or reimbursed for expenses. A third email was sent 7 June, to which there was no reply.

[17] Atlantic Institute of Marketing Studies. 2015-2016 Annual Report / Rapport Annuel. pp 1-2 and p 23. Available at: [accessed June 7, 2018]

[18] One was a project for an “envirosoil facility” in Bedford. The other was the Whites Point Quarry, proposed by Bilcon of Nova Scotia Corporation, owned by the US company Bilcon that is now suing Canada under NAFTA Chapter 11 for more than half a billion dollars because the federal and provincial governments rejected the proposal in 2007.

[19] NovaROC map, see blocks 11E/12B, 11E/12A, 11E/5C, 11E/5D, 21H/8D.

[20] The Canadian Minerals and Metals Plan. Overview.

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