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Look at the Bigger Picture

When Mike Cooze contacted me in mid-November to pass along some facts and gauge my opinion on the proposed Eagleridge gold mine development off Salmonier Line, I told him straight up that while I agreed it would be disastrous for sensitive areas all throughout this general section of the province’s Avalon Peninsula, there was probably little anybody could do at this point to stop it, now that bulldozers and other heavy equipment had already begun pushing an 11-kilometre road through.

Mike, an avid outdoorsman and contractor who has spent a significant portion of his 56 years fishing, hunting, hiking and canoeing this area, not only found a very polite way to tell me I was wrong, but added he was “100 percent confident” the decision to allow this could be overturned and the project would be stopped in its tracks. Further conversations with him in person, on the telephone and through social media, along with joining him and several others in a peaceful protest at the site on Dec. 1 – where I learned considerably more about the project and why it should never have been given the green light in the first place – has led me to believe that, yeah, he’s on to something here. There IS a chance to right the wrong that’s already underway.

(Incidentally, I was informed by two Holyrood residents at the protest that council initially rejected the Eagleridge proposal, but was forced to back off when threatened with a legal challenge because the cost could possibly bankrupt the town.)

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Now, first off, I am not the placard-waving type. Never did it in my life. I am not trying to “spread peace and harmony throughout the world.” A tree-hugger I most certainly am not. (Even the suggestion of it on social media made me chuckle. Me, a tree hugger? LMAO, as they say). I don’t go around protesting developments throughout the province, I am not a fan of Greenpeace or PETA, I support the seal hunt, I am not always “politically correct” and during Christmas I found myself still singing “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” actually, with a little more enthusiasm this time, for some reason. I like to think I’m your average, “ordinary” (and very proud) Newfoundlander/Labradorian.

I am all for job creation, and those who know me can attest to that. But not at any cost. This is why I have been adamantly opposed to ocean-based salmon aquaculture projects in recent years and why I have a problem with the location of this particular mine.

Affected in one way or another will be the Avalon Wilderness area, Hawke Hills Ecological Reserve, Salmonier Nature Park, North Arm and Salmonier rivers, area watersheds, including Holyrood, and numerous species of fish and wildlife.

“If drilling results are positive,” Mike says, “a fully operating gold mine is expected… For separation purposes, a gold mine requires a full toxic recipe with devastating effects on the environment… arsenic, cyanide, mercury, etc. Most of these end up pumped into a holding pond and eventually, of course, into the soil, rivers and ponds. History has proven that the containment of these toxic mixtures is never successful.”

Then surely the provincial government cannot be serious about supporting such a mining operation here, I initially thought.

“Indeed they are… And without an environmental impact study,” he was quick to add. “The federal government today has $3.6 billion – billion, not million – put aside strictly to clean up mine sites. That’s $3.6 billion of taxpayers’ money, not mining companies’ money. Recently, $1.2 billion was awarded to a U.S. company to clean up just one mine – Giant Mine Yellowknife – a five-year contract… Now, if that doesn’t smack people in the forehead, I don’t know what will.”

Rather than “tar them all with the same brush,” as my father often says, I’ve always preferred to judge/look at every case/situation individually, whether it involved mining, politics, immigration… whatever. Actually, a prime example just occurred as I was finishing this editorial shortly after 11 a.m. on Dec. 12. My many, many criticisms of the Ball administration are no secret and it’s highly unlikely I’ll be voting Liberal the next election. But just now from the premier’s Facebook/Twitter account there appeared a video promoting our province’s Canada Games representatives, with the wording, “Great to celebrate the 2019 #CanadaWinterGames national torch relay at Vanier Elementary School with Minister Lisa Powell-Dempster! We’re proud of everyone who will participate at the games as Team Newfoundland and Labrador.”

I thought this was wonderful and immediately hit “Like,” before continuing with my bashing of that same government’s decision to support a gold mine near Salmonier.

I have four children in their 30s and five grandkids between 5 and 13. I may not be around to see any of my great-grandchildren, and certainly not any great-great grandkids. But I’m not gonna sit quietly in my rocking chair and watch every acre of land and body of water around us destroyed, leaving them with the disastrous results of our indecisiveness.

I am fully aware that a growing population must have new housing, schools, roads, shopping malls, recreation facilities, etc., and I support this. Hey, I’ve shot 100 rabbits or more over the years where Galway is today and I’ve taken a few partridge and grouse right where WalMart sits off Kelsey Drive. And while I miss the convenience of hunting within minutes of my home, I realize some sacrifices have to be made in the name of development. I understand and accept this, despite the fact there isn’t a helluva lot of wilderness left on the Avalon Peninsula as developments continue to branch from the capital city. But there’s a limit, particularly when we’re talking about such a drastic level of destruction and poisoning of fish, game and the environment in general.

Let’s get something else out there as well, and I don’t imagine there will be too much argument here IF honesty prevails: Our environment is not a major concern of the current Liberal administration. Jobs at any cost appears to be their unwritten motto, much to the dismay, I’m told, of a number of its own department staff/advisors who are being ignored but cannot open their mouths for fear of losing their jobs. And, of course, the ocean-based aquaculture industry is in the spotlight as our prime example, where even MHAs are afraid to speak up.

Consider as well that while the threat of destruction and poisoning may not be in your backyard today, it may very well be next year or the year after if we continue to allow government to blatantly dismiss environmental protocols as they have been doing. Proper guidelines have to be enforced now, for the sake of the future.

As with the plague salmon aquaculture industry, which we all know does provide some employment, I ask, at what price?

Critics can pick this editorial apart and suggest I’m contradicting myself, I’m full of it, I’m a “townie,” I’m this and I’m that… Rather than criticize them with nasty or sarcastic comments, however, I simply wish they would take more time to look at the bigger picture; namely, our grandchildren and great-grandchildren, our fish and our wildlife.

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