Protest camp built on proposed site of Sisson mine project
First Nations protesters in N.B. planning to last the winter at the remote site of Sisson mine project
By Shane Fowler, CBC News, July 18, 2017
Members of Maliseet First Nations have started to build a protest camp at the proposed site of the Sisson mine near Napadogan.
Tents, campers, and other homemade structures have been set up in hopes of deterring future development of a proposed tungsten and molybdenum mine.
“I am a Wulustukyik grandmother and I am here defending the land,” said Terry Sappier, who has been living in the camp most of the time since it was built July 2.
“I’m defending it for our future generations.”
On Monday afternoon, there were a half dozen men, woman and children at the campsite as part of the Wulustukyik Nation Grandmothers and Mothers group.
Many were working to build additional structures, including a shower station, as the group plans to live in the remote location “for as long as it takes.”
“There’s nothing that would make us approve this mine,” said Sappier, the only person at the camp who would speak on camera. “If I agree to the project then I’m denying the next seven generations the right to use this land, and I would be taking away their inherent right that they are born with.”
Last month, the mine was given environmental approval from Ottawa. If constructed, the open pit mine and ore-processing facility would be expected to operate for 27 years with a projected cost of $579 million.
Division over accommodation agreement
Sisson Mine Ltd. projects the creation of 500 jobs during the construction of the facility with 300 positions operating during the mine’s lifespan.
In February, six Maliseet First Nations agreed to the Sission mine deal, including Tobique, Kingsclear, Woodstock, Oromocto, St. Mary’s and Madawaska. The accommodation agreement would see 9.8 per cent of generated revenue from the provincial metallic tax shared among the six groups. It would also include:
- $3 million upon federal environmental approval of the mine.
- 35 per cent of the first $2 million the province receives in royalties each year.
- 3.5 per cent of annual royalties above $2 million.
Despite the accommodation agreement, many from the First Nations groups, including those at the protest encampment, have distanced themselves from the decision.
“I don’t think that the chiefs have a right to consent to a project that would infringe on the future generations of our people,” said Sappier.
CBC News made several attempts to speak with leaders at the six First Nations involved in the Sisson mine deal, but those calls were not returned.
Despite the protest camp being constructed in a remote area, the inhabitants are getting support from people who can’t make the trek or withstand the harsh conditions.
“[The protesters] are very passionate about saving our land and our water,” said Ron Tremblay, the grand chief of Wolastoq. “I call them ‘the protectors.'”
Tremblay has always maintained the land was sacred regardless of recent deals with the mining company and the provincial government.
“These people are at the forefront,” said Tremblay. “And they’ve done it before.”
Tremblay said the Grandmothers and Mothers group was responsible for negotiating in the best interests of First Nations people in regards to the continued placement and maintenance of the Tobique dam.
“The traditional grand council of Wolastoq fully supports the grandmothers who are protecting our land and our water from further devastation,” said Tremblay. “They are good people.”
“We’re getting support for all our communities,” said Sappier. “And as long as we have that we’ll be good.”