November 13, 2006

NS Environment needs extra time to consider appeals of Point Aconi mine approval

The decision by the Nova Scotia Department of Environment and Labour on two appeals of its approval of a Point Aconi surface mine will be delayed by about two weeks. A decision on the first of the appeals was due on November 3.

"The delay is caused by the length and complexity of the 316-page approval and because we have two appeals that have to be treated individually," Environment and Labour Minister Mark Parent explained.

The appeal process requires departmental staff to review the approval to examine whether the grounds of each appeal are valid. The results of this review will be submitted in a report to the Minister, who will review the report and make a decision.

Pioneer Coal, in Antigonish, received an industrial approval in September for its proposal to operate the 85-hectare surface coal mine near Point Aconi, in Cape Breton. This is the final step in the review process for such projects required under Nova Scotia's Environment Act.

The company had previously received an environment assessment approval on December 28, 2005. Its conditions reflected the results of public consultation and an examination of the potential cumulative effects of surface coal mining in Cape Breton. The Point Aconi proposal is the only application for surface coal mining registered with the Department of Environment and Labour.

The 316-page industrial approval contains more than 50 conditions focusing on protection of drinking water sources, wildlife, aesthetics, wetlands, and residential properties in the area. Should the project proceed, the company must, among other things:

*minimize changes to aesthetics. Rock and soil moved during the mining operation will be continually put back in place as work goes on.

*protect groundwater. The company will conduct extensive, continuing monitoring of surrounding water supplies to guard against any effect from the operation of the mine.

*monitor wetlands. Affected wetlands must be restored in a manner consistent with Nova Scotia's Wetlands Compensation Policy.

*protect wildlife. The company must adhere to its environmental protection plan for wildlife protection and consult with Nova Scotia's Department of Natural Resources and/or the federal Canadian Wildlife Service.

*carry out complete reclamation of the site when the mine lease ends in seven years; and

*continue to inform the citizens' liaison committee about the mine's operation.

A brief summary of the industrial approval document may be viewed on the Environment and Labour Web site, www.gov.ns.ca/enla/docs/PioneerCoal_IndustrialApproval.pdf .

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