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Crowd demands answers from mining proponents

Family enjoying the view from the bluffs. This slab will be one of two that will be mined if the permit is approved; Photo, Kristina Hockley, Crowsnest Photography

Proposed environmental and safety precautions are not enough for residents along the Granby River north of Grand Forks to believe that a granite mine, whose products are heading to China, should proceed.

“The negative impacts far outweigh the benefits to this community or to Canada,” said Dana Riester who lives near the bluff. “They’re going to wreck our roads. There will be 250 logging truck loads, or if smaller trucks there will be more. They will have to rip and tear the natural area to make a huge road. It’s a terrible place for it – go somewhere else where it will not impact people’s homes and the river.”

The Lynch Creek crowd came out to a public information session hosted by North America Stone Inc. (NSA) last night to try to find a way to stop the mine from proceeding. Concerns over proposed mining exploration that will see slabs of granite removed from bluffs located between 28 and 31 kilometres north of Grand Forks ranged from blocking of wildlife corridors, impacts on at-risk species (red listed clover, and Peregrine falcons) to noise levels and air quality problems.

“It hasn’t been explained to us why there hasn’t been an opportunity for public input. This is a meeting where (the government and the company) are telling us what’s going to happen,” said another local area resident Margaret Steele.

“It’s not an opportunity where you’re asking – there should be public consultation. The materials that belong to the people of this province are being extracted by a company from China to be sent overseas – who is going to steward this land?”

The bluffs are used for recreational rock climbing and hiking, as well as being home to a variety of wildlife travelling across the bluffs to avoid the residences below.

“Noise pollution and air quality are our main concerns,” said Shinon Lawrence who lives directly below the Lynch Creek side bluff. “The fine dust and the particulate matter that the mine will be creating, and the fact that we live in a lower elevation, so all of the stuff that becomes airborne will settle in the valley below.”

The exploration permit, if issued, will allow NSA to remove 10,000 tonnes of granite over a five-year period from the sites they have claims on. Under provincial guidelines, as long as they do not exceed 10,000 tonnes every five years, NSA does not need to apply for a mineral lease. Environmental assessments are only required if they reach 250,000 tonnes a year of extraction, explained Allan Ludwig, a mining consultant representing the inspector of mines at the session.

With only .2 percent of the area being extracted in the bulk sampling program anticipated to be started by the fall, this year’s sample will only be enough to determine if the rock is suitable for markets. The section to be extracted from the Lynch Creek bluff area is 3.9 metres deep and less than half a hectare in size, but the section to be taken from across the river on the Granby Road side will be the equivalent size of a two-story barn.

“The staff will do some research on the wildlife as well – it’s the next step,” explained Rocky Sun, logistics co-ordinator for NSA who was at the session for the company. “It’s really good to have such a meeting. I came from China four years ago, I have to say in China there is no such meeting. If the government there wants a project, they just do it. For me this is really good and I would like to see the result, no matter what the result will be.”

The information session provided copies of area maps, the notice of work application to the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, environmental and reclamation plans.

Rick Mitchell, prospector and surveying consultant with Discovery Consulting working on behalf of NSA, said that the company will not be blasting the rock in order to minimize stress fractures. They will, instead, use Crack It gel – a calcium-like cement that is poured into drill holes and fractures the stone within a matter of hours. It is not hazardous to the environment, he added, since it is reduced to a dust that contains natural elements.

“We’re not preventing access into the bench – that is not our goal. Our goal is to test the rock,” Mitchell explained.

“It’s going to be a month’s worth of work (for the first sample). The people who are going to work on it will have to stay in Grand Forks so there’s a benefit to the community. In the long term the best value would be if it was successful so NSA can ask for bids from the local people for work. There is definite trickle down benefits.”

NSA is still waiting for the work permit to be approved, added Mitchell, and the exact date for the work to begin has not been set. The residents will continue to pressure government over the mine, but many have the sense that the permit is a done deal and that their concerns are falling on deaf ears.

“It doesn’t matter, (NSA) already informed the Ministry of his use of the land and he had this session, that’s it that’s all he had to do,” said Larry Butler, a resident whose trails may be impacted by the exploration.

“Nobody wants a mine up here,” concluded Riester.