Two Corner Brook councillors, who made their opposition to the Thomas Resources proposal to conduct mineral exploration in the Corner Brook Lakes watershed area known, say they were voicing the concerns of the people who elected them.
The mining company had been doing work near the municipal water supply for the past decade and had applied to advance to the next phase of its plan to develop a garnet and kyanite quarry.
Last week, Thomas Resources unexpectedly withdrew its application to conduct exploratory drilling so it could extract core samples that would help better determine the overall project’s feasibility.
In an interview after announcing the project had been withdrawn, a disappointed Mayor Neville Greeley referred to opposition to the project from within council. That opposition came from Coun. Gary Kelly and Coun. Linda Chaisson.
On Monday, Kelly said opposition to an environmentally sensitive issue should not be unexpected. He wasn’t sure why the mayor singled out the council members who represented those against the idea of industrial activity anywhere near the water supply.
“Everywhere I went here in town, the vast majority of the people told me they didn’t want mineral exploration in the watershed,” said Kelly. “Maybe Thomas Resources came to realize that. That’s just pure speculation on my part, but a lot of people were really opposed to this project.”
Kelly happened to side with those people who urged him to not support the project, even if it meant economic activity for Corner Brook.
“When I ran, one of the planks in my campaign platform was to be an environmentally friendly city,” said Kelly. “You can still be environmentally friendly and reap the benefits of economic projects, but I felt as though I was listening to what people told me they were feeling.”
Kelly and Chaisson were both surprised to hear the company had withdrawn its application. Chaisson said it would not be right to link her and Kelly’s opposition to the company’s decision since council would not have voted on it until at least the public meeting scheduled for Aug. 19.
“There are still five more votes down there (on city council),” said Chaisson. “To me, it’s a mystery why they would pull out now. I have not gotten any reason why they did.”
Like Kelly, Chaisson felt she was doing the people’s bidding by not hiding how she likely would have voted. “It’s my role to listen to the people of this city and take their wishes and their wants back to city hall,” she said.
Greeley said for councillors to approve new economic development regulations for the city and to then oppose the first project subjected to those new guidelines leaves a bad impression for other businesses considering setting up shop in Corner Brook.
Chaisson took particular exception to that idea put forth by the mayor. She said the Integrated Municipal Sustainability Plan recently adopted by the City of Corner Brook allows for the watershed to be a discretionary use area and that’s what she, Kelly and all of council approved earlier this year.
“That means any and all activity in the watershed needs a vote of council to be accepted or rejected on its own merit,” she said. “That is the definition of discretionary use.”
The Western Star