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The Newfoundland and Labrador Chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS-NL) is concerned about a mineral exploration access road that is now under construction on the Avalon Peninsula in the area of Big Triangle Pond, less than an hour’s drive from St. John’s. The area of land in question measures about 50 square kilometres. It is bounded by the Hawke Hills Ecological Reserve in the east, the Salmonier Line in the west, the TransCanada Highway in the north, and the Avalon Wilderness Reserve and Salmonier Nature Park in the south. The region contains within it portions of two watersheds, the Salmonier River watershed and the North Arm River watershed, both of which are well-known salmon bearing rivers. Not far to the south of this area are the calving and wintering grounds of the Avalon Caribou Herd, whose numbers have been dangerously low for some years now.
Canoers, hikers, trouters, and hunters all make use of and enjoy this area and have done so for many years. The land is highly valued by them for its natural wilderness qualities.
The mining company Eagle Ridge International Limited also values this land, but for other reasons. They value it for the marketable minerals it may contain.
What we have in this case is a conflict of interests and values.
There are many who value this land for its wilderness qualities. The value that Eagle Ridge International places on this land requires the transformation and destruction of its wilderness qualities. Eagle Ridge’s construction of a mineral exploration access road, which could eventually lead to the construction of a mine and associated infrastructure, infringes upon the value this land has for many other people.
There is reason to believe that Eagle Ridge’s exploration activity in this area does not require the construction of a road. Mineral exploration in this province is usually supported by helicopter charter for all sorts of operations, including obtaining sample cores. In support of its road building proposal, Eagle Ridge argued that helicopters were not economically feasible or safe for their prospecting activities. In our view, this claim is not well substantiated and the building of this mineral exploration access road lacks a sound rationale.
It is important to recognize that a significant number of people who value this area and have a history with it were not properly consulted regarding the construction of the road. The people who value this land for its natural wilderness qualities justly deserve an opportunity to provide input and express their concerns regarding this development. Such consultation would be possible if the provincial government were to require an Environmental Impact Statement for the construction of the road.
In 2014 the former provincial Progressive Conservative government allowed the construction of the road without an Environmental Impact Statement. In 2016 the newly elected provincial Liberal government required an Environmental Impact Statement for this development. Then, at the end of August 2018, a Supreme Court ruling reinstated the former Progressive Conservative government’s decision and released the proposal by Eagle Ridge International from the requirement of an Environmental Impact Statement.
This meant that the road could be constructed without consideration of all the potential environmental impacts and without thorough consultation with concerned citizens.
In light of this, we ask that the current provincial government use whatever legal means are at its disposal to reverse the Supreme Court’s decision and impose the requirement of a thorough Environmental Impact Statement, with full public consultations, for the construction of this mineral exploration access road.
The value that this land has for those who are most familiar with it should not be overlooked in favour of the purely monetary value it has from the perspective of Eagle Ridge International.
Vice President, CPAWS-NL