Special Series: Twelve Canadians
Heroic Wild Fish and Heavy Metal Mines
By David Kattenburg
Getting to visit some of Canada’s most gorgeous spots is one of the perks of the reporting profession. This past July I got to visit New Brunswick’s Nashwaak River; to travel up from her mouth, across the Saint John River from Fredericton and the provincial legislature, to headwaters a hundred and fifty kilometers north — a mossy, bubbly creek Vancouver-based Northcliff Resources wants to turn into a tungsten-molybdenum mine.
In the audio story above I am guided by Stephanie Merrill and Gary Spencer, both from the Nashwaak town of Stanley, by ecologist-teacher-researcher Larry Woest, from Green Hill, and by Alma Brooks, a Maliseet elder who knows the Nashwaak’s correct name, along with the names and uses of local medicinal plants.
Much of our trip was spent talking about salmon, for which the Nashwaak is renowned. It’s a topic of great interest for Gary Spencer, an avid angler and conservationist, and founder/past president of the Nashwaak Watershed Association and New Brunswick Salmon Council. Listen to Gary describe the astonishing life cycle of the Atlantic salmon, and the fate of outer Bay of Fundy salmon such as the Nashwaak’s — in decline for many years and seemingly threatened by salmon aquaculture.
As our day proceeded, talk inevitably turned to the proposed mine on a remote tributary of the Nashwaak, the Sisson Brook. Stephanie, Alma and Larry worry about the potential impacts of the mine on their lovely Nashwaak. Gary is concerned too, but points out that the local economy stands to benefit from the mine, and that local views are divided.
Vancouver-based Northcliff Resources has this to say about its proposed operation:
“Northcliff Resources Ltd. holds a controlling interest in and is the operator of the advanced-stage Sisson Tungsten-Molybdenum Project in New Brunswick and is positioned to become only the second Canadian producer of tungsten. Sisson has excellent potential to be a near-term metal producer, with the capability to meet increasing tungsten demand from North American and European markets. The Sisson property hosts a large, structurally controlled, intrusion-related tungsten-molybdenum deposit amenable to open pit mining and an ammonium paratungstate (APT) plant will also be constructed at the site adding significant value to the project.”
Northcliff submitted its Environmental Assessment Report to federal and New Brunswick provincial authorities in January 2013. The Conservation Council of New Brunswick commissioned expert opinion on Northcliff’s EIA. Read this opinion here.
Rivers are amazing feats of nature. Beautiful, endangered or extinguished rivers are a common subject in song. Here’s one.
Twelve Canadians is a multimedia series about women and men who’ve been devoting their lives to social, economic or environmental justice, and to the healthy development of Canadian communities and the world. Each episode examines a specific issue or situation, through the voices of people who’ve been active in that area. Lots more than just twelve. Thanks to the Social Justice Fund of the Canadian Autoworkers Union for their generous support. Thanks as well to CKUW, University of Winnipeg Radio.