Dear Editor: In the Saturday edition of The Western Star, Mr. Rod Mercer from Thomas Resources Inc wrote a letter regarding his company’s proposal for exploratory drilling within the Corner Brook watershed which is protected to ensure safety of the drinking water supply to this city.
In his letter, Mr. Mercer made some comments concerning student views on this development which the Grenfell Campus Student Union would like to clarify.
We believe that the ultimate goal of this exploration — large scale extraction and a quarry development — comes at too high a risk and should not proceed.
Representatives of the student union met with representatives of Thomas Resources and Pennecon prior to the public session. During this meeting Thomas Resources and Pennecon stated that the ultimate goal of this project was to develop a quarry. Models for jobs and revenues were based on 100,000 tonnes of processed product a year.
This would require a processing plant be built and significant amounts of aggregate material being extracted and transported from the site. This project would be the largest single quarry project that Pennecon has ever taken on.
Therefore, the Grenfell Campus Student Union cannot only consider this proposal as a one-stage project. We expect our elected officials to think long term as well.
Mr. Mercer stated that “Most of the students I spoke to were not opposed to responsible resource development.”
In saying this, he insinuates that students are in favour of the project. Being in favour of “responsible development” does not mean that students support this project.
Developing so close to a drinking water source, we believe, does not constitute a responsible development.
The Grenfell Campus Student Union represents about 1,300 students, many of which are residents of Corner Brook. This represents roughly five per cent of the population. The decisions we make are based on the issues students care about. There are comprehensive and numerous discussions which consult students, staff, faculty and members of the community.
These discussions happen every single day, not at one stand-alone event. The decision to oppose this development had great support and was unanimous. Over 100 students signed a petition calling on city council to vote against this proposal.
The student union is also not the only group who has expressed concerns with this proposal.
Students are concerned about the economic sustainability of the city.
We remind the community that the post-secondary sector already contributes over twice the economic benefit than Thomas Resources claims will be seen and currently employs 10 times as many people as the Thomas Resources model predicts according to a recent study by ACOA.
There is much room for expansion in this sector, and in others which do not carry the same environmental degradation.
Thomas Resources is to be commended on their efforts to be forthright about their plans. A public consultation hosted by the company is not legislated at this time, but the Grenfell Campus Student Union believes with an issue as important as our drinking water a public discourse is essential and this was the right action from Thomas Resources.
We hope that all comments from the session will be made public. While there has been debate on the format of the session, we do not wish for this to detract from the true scope of this issue.
Focusing on this format debate only serves as a distraction to the details of this project. Similarly, attendance numbers for a singular event cannot be the only determinant of public interest.
This is our drinking water we are talking about here. At a time when municipalities are enacting policies to reclaim their watersheds due to huge treatment costs and Corner Brook is building an expensive water treatment facility, we are faced with a proposal for large scale development within a protected area.
The best way to ensure quality is to ensure quality of the source. To move forward on this project would be to move in the wrong direction.
Students were not convinced otherwise by the recent information session, and therefore development should not go ahead.
Glen Keeling for the Grenfell
Campus Student Union