There was mainly surprise throughout the community that Thomas Resources pulled its application for drilling in the Corner Brook Lake area.
Regardless of whether people were in favour, opposed or neutral to the issue, there was an element of shock at the latest in what has been a controversial development proposal for several years.
The company hoped to explore for garnet and kyanite in the Corner Brook Lake area. Its proposed core drilling program, which was the subject of this application, involved the drilling of 21 small holes for exploration purposes.
Rod Mercer, the project lead with Thomas Resources, said there will be no public comment from the company other than it has several projects ongoing that are demanding of financial and human resources.
“... The Corner Brook Lake project is no longer one of them,” he stated in an email.
During a news conference Thursday, Corner Brook Mayor Neville Greeley told reporters to ask the company about the reason it withdrew the application. He then speculated opposition to the project played a role in that decision.
A comment Mercer made in response to an online letter to the editor in The Western Star from Corner Brook resident Gerard Lee may have also indicated that.
Mercer also made reference to the proposal being tied up in politics.
“As a business it is extremely frustrating to see our project being used as a political football,” Mercer stated. “Whether the deposit is worthy of development remains unknown and we are willing to provide those answers.
“However, seems as though a small group has convinced the masses that it is better not to know if Corner Brook has an environmentally and economically sound resource development on its doorstep.”
Environmentally conscious move
Gord Casey, a city resident who this spring found mining materials left behind in the area of the lake the company has been using, said the withdrawal of the application is a good thing for the citizens and the city.
“To have this issue no longer a concern as it relates to our water supply, is in my opinion, a very positive and environmentally
conscious move by Thomas Resources,” he said.
Casey, a teacher, said the opposition to the project was never about emotion or resistance to economic development.
“Instead, when we weigh the odds of a potential accident and possible contamination to the drainage system of Corner Brook Lake — and, invariably, to our main source of water — this was a no-brainer for me from the very onset,” he said.
He said he is surprised the project wasn’t stopped years ago.
Meanwhile, (Lee) was pleasantly surprised by the news. He suspects the company realized the lack of support it was receiving. His biggest concern was council allowing the process to progress without knowing whether approval would have been given for a quarry.
“I didn’t think it was a decision that six or seven people should have been making for the city,” he said. “We are one of the few, if not (the) only, (community) in Newfoundland where there has never been a complaint about our water.”
If there is any risk to that, he said, no company should be allowed to develop there.
Business community disappointed
Matthew Connolly, president of the Greater Corner Brook Board of Trade, said he was disappointed. If proven the development could be done safely, he said the board would support it.
“I am the type of person that, if it is going to be safe, I will help them dig the hole,” Connolly said. “If it is not going to be safe, I am going to be standing there with a banner saying you can’t do this.”
Even though it was controversial, he said the quarry had potential, and it could be a significant loss for the area.
However, he doesn’t think it sends a bad message to the business community or future developers. He even speculated the company could be avoiding this becoming a municipal election issue, and may return to the table with a fresh council.
Jackie Chow, chief executive officer and manager of the Corner Brook Port Corp., said the corporation was confident the company would adhere to all the regulations in place to ensure it worked in an environmentally-responsible manner.
She is disappointed at the loss of the future investment the company had spoke of throughout the process. Chow is concerned about the perception this might leave.
“We hope that the withdrawal of the application is not a deterrent to other companies looking to do business in this region,” she said. “We feel that the key to a healthy economy is diversification. Expansion beyond the service and tourism sectors is critical for Corner Brook to be sustainable in the long-term, and more importantly for the community to grow.”
City Couns. Gary Kelly and Linda Chaisson have publicly expressed their opposition to the project. Both, declined comment Thursday.
Kelly had taken his opposition of the exploratory drilling to Twitter this week as the company again filed its application.
“I will not support mineral exploration in our watershed. I think majority support this,” he tweeted Tuesday.
Chaisson had originally agreed to an interview but later declined because she did not know the reason why the application was pulled.
Meanwhile, other members of council were in favour of the project — at least in allowing the exploration phase to proceed.
Both Deputy Mayor Donna Luther and Coun. Donna Francis expressed their disappointment via Twitter Thursday.
“Unfortunate the mineral exploration didn’t get to be voted on by council. Decision should have been on if company met regulations,” Luther tweeted.
“Sad day for economic development in Corner Brook. It’s hard to progress when you’re paralyzed by unfounded fears. Yes, unfounded,” Francis tweeted.
Later Thursday, Kelly did join discussion on Twitter.
“Please remember that (Thomas Resources) withdrew their application. #cbcouncil did not force them to withdraw. Fact not philosophy,” he tweeted.
The Western Star