Ground Zero: Mining companies (& others) want the “low hanging fruit” in Nova Scotia’s Protected Areas

Those who need the low hanging fruit the most are the wildlife. I think most Nova Scotians want us to leave it there for them.

Abandoned gold mines in eastern Nova Scotia. Such mines are considered “low hanging fruit” to the mining companies and they want access to them in Protected Areas.
Click on image to go to map source (NSDNR)

UPDATE Nov 11, 2017: Three items in the Chronicle Herald, none as yet supportive of the MANS proposal:

COMMENTARY: Save protected areas from mining, by Raymond Plourde: “[MANS] conveniently misunderstands that protecting biodiversity means leaving areas alone, in a natural state over long periods of time, to allow natural biological processes to occur and to provide the complex, inter-connected habitats needed by native species to survive.
That is why they are protected under law in perpetuity. They are not generic “green spaces” that can simply be moved around the landscape like furniture.”

Hands off protected lands by Brad Armstrong, Chester, conservation director, Friends of Nature” “…would it not be ill-advised to put a big open-pit mine in an area that has been previously protected so a certain threatened or endangered species could perhaps survive, thrive and maybe even multiply?”

Sacrificed for profit by Ian MacFadden, director, Glenholme Little Dyke Residents Association: “As for land reclamation, MANS has cherry-picked some examples that were minor undertakings by today’s norms, and date back 60 years or more. If you want to see what reclamation in rural Nova Scotia really looks like, we could show you some sites that didn’t make it to their list.”

UPDATE Nov 9, 2017: DNR says no mining access to Nova Scotia’s wilderness areas Article by Aaron Beswick in Chronicle Herald Nov 8, 2017.

But don’t expect MANS to be back off their appeal to rural communities struggling economically.


According to Aaron Beswick, writing in the Chronicle Herald Nov 4, 2017, the Mining Association of Nova Scotia (MANS) is campaigning to gain access to our protected areas:

After releasing a 67-page report nine months ago on the economic consequences of blocking exploration and mining activity on the 13 per cent of this province’s land mass that the government is on track to prevent, the association has begun sending letters to county councils and newspapers outlining their findings.

Sean Kirby, executive director of the mining association told AB

We are doing our best to work with the (protected areas) plan… We support its ecological goals and we are just advocating for small changes that would allow for economic development as well… the province is missing out on $22 million a year in economic activity.


The Swap

Basically MANS wants a “swap deal”, which

…would allow mining and quarrying companies to access protected land by purchasing land of at least equal size and ecological value outside of the protected areas and arranging for it to be protected instead. This would ensure that the total amount of protected land remains the same or grows; the ecological value of protected lands remains the same or grows; and Nova Scotians would continue to be able to access the minerals they need to create jobs and grow the economy.

What’s really bugging them is the “low hanging fruit“:

There is a saying in the industry that “new mines are often found next to old mines” because the evolution from pickaxes to sophisticated, modern technology often makes historical mines economically viable for modern miners. The Touquoy gold mine, an historical site that is in the process of returning to production, is a current example of this. It is therefore troubling that the Parks and Protected Areas Plan impacts so many past-producing sites. Former mines, quarries and pits have great potential value and are often low hanging fruit for the modern industry. However, the 59 past-producing sites described above are being harmed or blocked by the Plan. – MANS Report, page 11

So they want access because those sites have potentially higher profit margins. Well I guess the forest industry would also like the low hanging fruit (older trees) in our protected areas, so would some developers (lakeside vistas especially).

Allowing such access would be the death knell of our protected areas system.

From the Chronicle Herald article:

Barred Owl in proposed Shingle Lake Nature Reserve, July 29, 2017. Clearcuts are scheduled nearby, and it’s an old gold-mining area that the miners would like to access again – see p26 of the MANS document

Forest ecologist Donna Crossland said Friday that the point of having permanent protected areas is to allow them to return to a natural state.

“There are components of the forest that take centuries to develop so we need long-term protection,” said Crossland. “We can’t be playing musical chairs and just swapping protected areas in and out of a landscape.”

Disturbed Acadian forest, she said, takes centuries to recover. The vast majority of the province has been at some point clear cut or cleared for farmland. Even much of the areas now protected, said Crossland, are still recovering from past disturbances.

That means that over centuries, longer-lived species of trees like maple, pine, red spruce and oak, take hold and grow to maturity — providing habitat for wildlife as they become old-growth forests.

When you think about how the MANS proposal would work, it seems quite ludicrous.

– Build roads, make an open pit mine in part of a protected area; the edge impact would probably multiply the area directly impacted by a factor of 5 or more.

– Then find another area to compensate. An awful lot of the Crown land outside of protected areas that might be considered would have been clearcut within the last 30 years and the industrial forest concerns would want that which has older forest. So would MANS purchase land as necessary from private land owners?

– Would they ask the government to expropriate as necessary, as can occur when a mining company wants to open a new mine?

– But first, of course, MANS would have to confirm beyond all doubt that there are no minerals there of any economic value….so they can’t come up with one block of land, so come up with a bunch of small patches…

Result: our already highly fragmented protected area system becomes even more fragmented.

Oh, and then the forest industry sues the government for access to their low hanging fruit based on the mining company access. Then the developers…

More Revenues and no Losses!

The economic/jobs argument is hardly convincing.

The mining and quarrying industry is the province’s highest-paying resource industry, with an average wage of approximately $55,000 per year. 291-356 lost jobs therefore represent $16- $19.6 million in annual lost wages to Nova Scotians, and $2.4-$2.9 million in lost personal income tax revenue each year for the provincial government. MANS Report page 11

Through some vague reasoning MANS comes up with another $22-$27 million to account for the “impact of the Plan on other industries that also require land to grow and create jobs for Nova Scotians.”

Not surprisingly they did not subtract the impact on tourism, a 2.6 billion a year industry that is growing.

Or the impact on a major reason that people and hi-tech and other industries are attracted to NS or find a way to stay here because of our natural areas.

For my day job, I’m a computer software executive for a large company based in the US. I work with a remarkable team of computer science and storage specialists on ambitious projects that involve a lot of travel, sitting in meetings, and general lack of physical activity. Sea kayaking is a great physical counter-balance to my otherwise sedentary work lifestyle…

The writer goes on to laud our Protected Areas. View bojanic

Enough said, I think.

Those who need the low hanging fruit the most are the wildlife. I think most Nova Scotians want us to leave it there for them.


An afterthought

The pot at the end of the rainbow

An awful lot of the MANS REPORT is about gold, and brings back memories of the bitter struggle around the Jim Campbell’s barren.*

The Cape Breton Highlands are also a new frontier for gold deposits in the province and the now-protected Jim Campbell’s barren hosts eight of the more significant prospects. Trenching and drilling on the barrens revealed widespread zones of gold, silver and base metal mineralization associated with quartz veining in greenstone rocks. Samples from drill cores and trenches produced gold grades as high as 47 g/t with significant intervals averaging 7 g/t.

With the return of gold mining to the province at the Touquoy and Dufferin mines on the Eastern Shore, high potential gold prospects like these in the rest of Nova Scotia could receive more scrutiny and millions of dollars of further investment were they not harmed by the Parks and Protected Areas Plan. – MANS Report, p 18

To which one might comment as did Geoffrey May a few years back:

Never mind that Jim Campbell’s Barren was selected by the staff at Natural Resources for protection, and never mind that Jim Campbell’s Barren sits above the headwaters of three major river systems. Never mind that a gold mine on Jim Campbell’s Barren would have been a constant threat to the health of the Margaree River. Never mind that the salmon fishery on the Margaree River was eco-tourism generations before the term was coined. – Geoffrey May, Margaree Harbour Nov 18, 2014 in The Inverness Oran

So… let’s leave the gold for the leprechauns.

*“In 1997, Natural Resources Minister Eleanor Norrie and the provincial cabinet won the Tarred Duck for removing the Jim Campbells Barren from the list of protected site candidates. They did this on a recommendation to open the area for gold mining. Following protests from Nova Scotians, this decision was reversed, and the Jim Campbells Barren was reinstated as a protected area the following year.” – From Environmental Villainy Over The Years, By Scott Fotheringham


GF (NOV 7): This might be a great thing for wood lot owners. There are some wood lot owners that already own some old growth forest that don’t really want to cut it but might beforced to due to taxes owning . Selling the wood lot to the mining company to trade could be win win . It also would create more scattered protected areas through out the province . Not be clustered in a few locations . This is a good deal
—-DP (NOV 9): If we had an extended Cap andTrade market, they would probably get well in excess of the taxes
RF: Don’t we have a obligation to not be wasteful and manage our woodland in a respectful way. Letting a mature stand of timber over mature, results in more disease and rotten blow downs. Good forest management helps keep our forest Healthy and growing in a substantial way.
—-GF (NOV 8): It’s not all about that . Most wood land in the near future will have some form of treatment. About 30% of private forest land is planted . It’s about keeping places so people can see what the forest was like at one time before interference . It’s also about maintaining microorganisms and other life things that get lost in development.
—-DP (NOV 9): “Letting a mature stand of timber over mature” provides lots of habitat for old forest species. So yes, we – especially on crown lands – do have an obligation to manage our woodland in a respectful way

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