Cabinet approves New Brunswick tungsten mine plan for tailings in salmon habitat

Tim Naumetz

Jul 11, 2019
The Trudeau cabinet has approved plans by a controversial tungsten mine in New Brunswick to include two waterways that are habitat for endangered Atlantic Salmon and other fish species in a tailings site for toxic waste.

The cabinet decision, which took force on June 25, is a major milestone for the mine project, which will also extract molybdenum to be used in the manufacture of military aircraft and industrial motors. The mine has met fierce resistance since its proponents first laid out plans for the project in 2013.

The mine is being developed by a company associated with a Vancouver-based resource giant that is also behind a controversial mine project in Alaska that is also facing opposition over threats to fish habitat for Pacific salmon and other species.

The government gave conditional approval for the New Brunswick project in 2017.

Cabinet passed regulatory amendments on Saturday, June 22, two days after the House of Commons adjourned for the summer and a federal election in October, to add the two waterways to a list of nearly 50 lakes, ponds and waterways where the effect of resource development is mitigated and controlled under the federal Metal and Diamond Mining Effluent Regulations.

The site of the mine, the Sisson Mines Ltd. Project, is located 60 kilometres north of Fredericton, in the centre of the forested Nashwaak River Watershed that leads to the Bay of Fundy.

The waters that are being added to the Fisheries Act regulatory list consist of a long length of a brook and its tributaries and another separate tributary to another larger brook. All three are part of the start of water flow to the Nashwaak River watershed that leads to the Bay of Fundy — home to a unique species of Atlantic Salmon that has been listed as an endangered species since 2003.

The Sisson project is led by Northcliffe Resources Ltd., which was established by Hunter Dickinson Inc. to develop and operate the mine.

Both companies have a Vancouver address for the head office, and Hunter Dickinson Inc. has established five other companies listed on its website, to lead other big mine projects in Canada and abroad.

One is Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd., which owns the Pebble copper and gold mine project in Alaska. It’s considered contentious because of its threat to a watershed that includes habitat for Pacific Ocean Chinook Salmon, which is a vital staple for threatened Orca whale pods along the southern B.C. coast. That project was held back under former U.S. president Barack Obama, but is now expected to go ahead under President Donald Trump’s administration.

A spokesperson for Environment and Climate Change Canada said the Sisson mine proposal to deposit waste can go ahead only after Environment Minister Catherine McKenna approves a fish habitat compensation plan and after the company provides a letter of credit, valued at $954,000, to cover the cost of implementation of the compensation plan.

The Sisson mine will also be required to meet 40 conditions of approval set by the New Brunswick environmental impact agency and obtain other federal and provincial authorizations before starting the mine operations, said spokesperson Veronica Petro.


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