Cape Breton Post
Elizabeth Marshall, a member of the Mi’kmaq Warrior Society, speaks during a public meeting in Donkin to discuss concerns about the nearby mine’s plans to conduct underwater seismic testing. (Cape Breton Post photo) – Cape Breton Post
DONKIN, N.S. — A coal company’s plans to conduct seismic testing off the coast of Donkin have basically been blasted out of the water.
About 150 people — mainly fishermen concerned with the impact the testing by Donkin mine owner Kameron Coal would have on lobster stocks — attended a public meeting Tuesday at the Donkin fire hall.
Representatives from the mine and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans met stiff opposition from the crowd, which was firmly against the testing.
Perhaps no one was more passionate than Elizabeth Marshall, a member of the Mi’kmaq Warrior Society who vowed to stop the testing from taking place.
Marshall, who is from Eskasoni, drew loud cheers after saying First Nations treaty rights mean activities such as seismic testing can’t take place without their free, prior and informed consent.
“I’m here to tell you that you do not have the authority to be doing this type of activity whatsoever,” she said, while holding up a blanket that said “water is life.”
“These people, whoever they are and whatever they propose to do, we’re going to stop them. We’re going to stop them because we can. Nobody has the authority except us and we intend to assert it. We need the help of you fishermen, we need the help of your families, we need the help of our prayers, but we’re going to win. I promise you.”
Shannon Campbell, a manager at the Donkin mine, said the seismic testing in the waters above coal workings, which extend several kilometres off the coast, is necessary to find potentially dangerous pockets of methane and other pressurized gas, as well as to find out in much more detail where any faults are so they can build a business case for the mine to be sustainable in the future.
“For the sake of the mine it needs to happen,” he said.
Despite assurances from a marine geoscientist about the type of seismic testing proposed, and DFO marine biologists about the impact on fish and other marine life, most people were loudly opposed to the plan.
In the end, with Dannie Hansen, Louisbourg Seafoods vice-president of sustainability, saying the group would seek a court injunction or appeal to the fisheries minister, Campbell asked for a private meeting with the fishermen today.
“Before you go the minister I’d ask that you allow us to have one more conversation but I don’t want to do it in a big room. I’d like to meet with the representatives tomorrow midday to give us time digest all of the information we heard tonight, and allow you guys … if it is going to the minister, you’ve got that opportunity.”
Herb Nash, president of the Glace Bay Harbour Authority and president of the 4VN Groundfish Management Board, accepted the offer to sit down with Campbell.
However, he said the fishermen are not going to change their minds.
“We’d do anything we can to help the coal mine but we’re not going to sacrifice our livelihood to help the coal company stay in place,” he said.
“Whatever we’ve got to do to stop it, we are. Until it’s stopped we’re going to be fighting to stop it.”