Grenfell student union opposes watershed drilling

Cory Hurley
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CORNER BROOK — The Grenfell Campus student union opposes exploration activity in Corner Brook’s watershed, and is urging the city to look toward education as an economic stimulant.

Thomas Resources, a subsidiary of Pennecon Group, has requested permission from the city to carry out mineral exploration in the Corner Brook Lakes Watershed area. Part of the research and analysis phase for a potential mining project, the exploration work is described as a low-impact stage of determining what resources exist and in what quantity.

Today is the deadline to submit comments as part of the 45-day public consultation prior to council rendering a decision on the development activity.

The student union recently wrote a letter to the city expressing its opposition.

“We believe the full-scale development, the ultimate goal, comes at too high a risk,” Glen Keeling, vice-president external of the student union, said.

The letter to the city states the proposal by Thomas Resources is lacking in detail and is not a thorough environmental assessment document. Keeling wonders what purpose there is in allowing the development to continue through this phase.

“While we recognize that this activity is exploratory only, we believe that when you make this decision the ultimate goal of the project should be considered,” the letter states. “By allowing Thomas Resources to explore for garnet and kyanite, you would be suggesting that the full scale extraction processes would be allowed as well.”

Leadership and vision

With the city having the ability to deny this proposal, the student union is asking them to show leadership and vision by turning it down. With the construction of a new water treatment facility well underway, the union feels it is counterproductive to allow such a development to proceed.

“The easiest way to ensure high quality water is to ensure quality at the source,” their letter states.

It cited a Health Canada report in 2004 called “From Source to Tap: Guidance on the Multi-Barriers Approach to Safe Drinking Water,” which advocates for and proposes strategies for protecting the source of drinking water.

Keeling said the cheapest way to treat water is to not pollute it at the source.

“The added cost of treatment would probably be transferred down onto consumers and the residents of Corner Brook,” he said.

Last week, Thomas Resources issued a press release stating its commitment to the environment. It also highlighted the potential of an operation that would employ more than 50 people for over 30 years in a facility worth upwards of $50 million.

Keeling said the process thus far has contributed little economic benefit to the city. Business and development attraction in Corner Brook has been a source of public criticism in recent years, but the vice-president hopes that would not lure council into exploring this particular project.

“I think they would likely face criticism for allowing development in the watershed,” he said. “Expansion of businesses and things like that within city limits are a completely different conversation than talking about development within our watershed. I hope they have the long-term vision to be able to vote against this proposal.”

The post-secondary and tourism sectors are better options to invest in as economic stimulators, according to Keeling. The post-secondary sector contributes about $50 million in gross domestic product to the region, according to an ACOA study, and employs over 500 individuals.

The student union says there is much room for growth and expansion within this sector.

“In fact, becoming more of a college town is a pillar of the budgetary process in Corner Brook,” the letter states. “Students here are passionate about the environment, and believe that clean drinking water is a human right. Maintaining a clean watershed may contribute to students staying in the city after graduation.”

Organizations: Grenfell Campus student union, Pennecon Group, Health Canada Multi-Barriers Approach

Geographic location: CORNER BROOK, Corner Brook Lakes Watershed

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Recent comments

  • Joey Banto
    January 30, 2013 - 11:28

    This is such a bad idea.. Its better we not know what’s in there. I am very disappointed to see you supporting this Brent! Think about this, What if they find out they have enough material to start a mine. Then are you going to say its environmental responsible to start mining on the bank’s of the watershed.. What if something does go wrong, Is Thomas Resources going to stick around….. Also anyone one doing watershed management 101, I think page one says limited activity!!! The city can’t manage what it got on the go now, yet alone a mining operation!!

  • Paul Pike
    January 30, 2013 - 04:29

    I personally feel that any drilling or mining activity near a watershed is irresponsible and Doesn't make a lot of sense. Sure the mill brought in a lot of jobs, but it also kill alot of salmon. I mean, who in the right mind puts a pulp mill at the head of a salmon River? We Should put our focus on renewable green energy Sources that do not harm or threaten the environment. It's happening all over the world, and Newfoundland is the perfect place to start those kinds of projects. It has potential to employ a lot of people Right here at home.

  • Will Cole
    January 29, 2013 - 19:36

    What happens if the drill results prompt Thomas Resources (evidently a subsidiary of Pennecon) to seek approval from the City of Corner Brook to build a garnet quarry in the watershed? Furthermore, given that the City has already given TR approval for initial exploration activity in the watershed, doesn't it then follow that successful results would compel the City to approve of a quarry operation in the watershed? Otherwise why allow any mineral exploration in the watershed in the first place? I think the citizens of CB deserve straight answers from Barnable and council on the potential ramifications should TR’s drilling results indicate a viable ore body. Who would want a heavy industry quarry operation less than a kilometre from the source of their drinking water?

    • Citizen
      January 29, 2013 - 20:58

      What if there never was a paper mill in Corner Brook? Would the town even exist. As stressed as the paper industry is now it was once the only reason anyone lived in or moved to Corner Brook. What would you think if the mill didn't exist and a multi national company proposed building one in the middle of town. Let me guess, " no way. Paper mills are dirty and produce toxic gases, not to mention clearing the forest of trees" We can build a thriving economy on low paying tourist jobs and government handouts. That happens in lots of countries down south. Just look at the tourist destinations in the caribian, the economies are doing really well, just ask the starving locals.

  • That Guy
    January 29, 2013 - 19:32

    Tbe west coast if NL needs a stimulated economy. What better than natural resources. Of course people will be opposed when the phrases "watershed" and "drilling" are in the same paragraph. What people do not understand is the responsibility and liability these compaiesy have to develop and maintain an environmental protection plan. It's actually quite impressive. For god sakes, people in Corner Brook would oppose the building of a church if it was put up for discussion. I think it is time to let something happen in our area. Something by a trusted, Newfoundland based company, who have a reputation of creating great opportunities. Investing in education as an economic stimulant? Come on....we need to depend on people with jobs equal to the national payscale. A couple thousand students spending $40 000 over 4 years plus staff is not enough to stimulate our economy. Tens of millions of dollars introduced by a private company, now that's an economic stimulant.

    • Fact Checker
      February 01, 2013 - 07:34

      Actually, having students in the area directly contributes approximately $53,000,000 annually to Corner Brook's GDP... more than enough to be considered an economic stimulant.

  • Citizen
    January 29, 2013 - 18:43

    "maintaining a clean watershed may contribute to students staying in the city after graduation" Ha ha ha, JOBS are what keep students in the city after graduation, and if the current trend of anti small business continues the university will be the only employer left. Corner Brook needs private business to flourish, and council should encourage it to do so. Here is a big eye opener to the students who look down on resource based industry. Without a tax base from private enterprise, there would be no university, cozy government jobs, or fat pensions for government retires. Government services are not magically paid for by someones parents, but out of the pockets of private business and its employees.

  • jon
    January 29, 2013 - 16:42

    Yeah, ok lets drill in our water shed , great idea! Walmart loves this idea, invest in plastic folks, 24 packs of water at 2.99 is gonna be a deal.

  • brent humphries
    January 29, 2013 - 08:21

    I disagree. The watershed is a very large area that already has controlled industrial activity in a variety of forms; it also used recreationally for many motorized and non-motorized activities which often has very little oversight. Mining can inject millions of dollars into the economy and help to stabilize the uncertainty facing many of the existing industries which are tied to the tenuous existence of the Kruger mill. Council should approve the application and monitor the activity to ensure compliance with environmental protocols. We have an excellent water supply which will be enhanced by the new water treatment facility under construction. we should concentrate on how to pay for this and keep the economy of Corner Brook healthy to attract growth, people, and decent wages. In short, we need industrial development of this type and we need to start enticing business and industry to set up shop. I am an outdoors enthusiast and agree fully with respect to maintaining a healthy watershed. I also believe that we must fully explore the options available to improve the economy so that we can continue to enjoy the lifestyle that so many residents embrace.