Top News

Westville residents still up in arms over proposed strip mine

Cowan Place resident John MacDonald, who is against the idea of a strip mine near Cowan Street in Westville.
Cowan Place resident John MacDonald, who is against the idea of a strip mine near Cowan Street in Westville. - Kevin Adshade

WESTVILLE, N.S. – The crowds are getting bigger, the voices more urgent.

About 60 people jammed into Westville’s town council chambers on May 28, most of them opposed to the idea of a strip mine in the Cowan Street area.

Several addressed council about the possibility of, among other things, noise pollution, coal dust particles filling the air, decreased property value, the large number of trucks moving daily along Cowan Street, water contamination, and that, because of the relatively small parcel of land in question, there would be virtually no berm between Cowan Street and the open-pit mine.

“Pioneer Coal’s going to dig the hole that will bury this town,” said resident Tom Clark, “and we’ll never get out of it. I can’t see anything but disaster.”

Pioneer Coal has received permission to do exploration work, and if they like what they find, can submit a project design for a strip mine to Nova Scotia’s department of environment.

“The exploration activities will likely include drilling and excavating,” said Deputy Mayor Lennie White during the council meeting, reading from a script prepared to help answer questions raised by residents.

“The purpose of the excavation will be to collect a sample for coal testing, including burning the coal sample at a Nova Scotia Power facility to determine the coal’s qualities.”

White, who was sitting in the mayor’s chair due to the absence of Roger MacKay, also said with the project still in the early stages of development, “the town can stop the project by refusing to allow the company access to land owned by the town.”

With so many people opposed to it, why don’t they shut it down before it starts?

In a May 30 interview, the mayor said council wants to get that piece of land along Cowan Street eventually restored, so that it’s available for future development.

He said the proposed strip mine would be a “five-year project,” with only two of those years needed for digging.

“I do understand their concerns,” MacKay said of the residents who are opposed to it.

“But sometimes you’ve got to move forward. If we keep saying ‘no’, (we’re saying) Westville isn’t open for business.”

John MacDonald lives in Cowan Place, a mobile home park that sits in the shadow of where the strip mine would be located. He grew up in Pictou County and moved to Ontario, where he lived for 45 years before he and his wife moved here in 2004, choosing Cowan Place because it seemed like a “nice, quiet place to live.”

He is among several people concerned about the quality of life being adversely affected by the strip mine. Some of the homes at Cowan Place are being put up for sale, but whether they sell or not is another matter.

Meanwhile, those opposed to the strip mine aren’t going away quietly.

“We are going to keep coming back until you change your mind,” Clarrie MacKinnon told council.

“This council can, in fact, stop this madness. All we need is the leadership of council to make a motion to have this stopped.”

Recent Stories