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.”