They’ve written statements, gathered at the legislature, and met with politicians – all to no avail. People in Southey who are against the Yancoal potash mine don’t believe the government is listening.
The province announced Tuesday it was giving conditional approval of the Chinese-owned company’s environmental assessment.
This was a surprise to Thera Nordal, who lives on a farm just outside Southey and is one of several people who have been working against the mine.
Nordal said when the group met with Environment Minister Herb Cox and Economy Minister Bill Boyd, they had been told they’d get a heads up when the decision was made. But the landowner said while Yancoal knew a week ago, the group didn’t know what the decision was until it became public.
“(I’m) really disappointed, and really lacking confidence in the system right now,” she said.
According to Nordal, more than 800 environmental impact statements were submitted to the province about the Yancoal mine, more than any other provincial project. Nordal submitted one herself, but said she and several others haven’t received a response from the office of the minister for the environment.
“(The government is) not hearing our concern with the process – just continuing on like everything is roses,” she said.
Nordal believes the province was set on pushing the mine through.
“The government didn’t even pause to consider that maybe their environmental regulations aren’t up to standard.”
Nordal’s concerns about the project centre around the effect on nearby water, what she perceives as the lack of public engagement and the possibility the government regulation process isn’t robust enough. She also wonders what another potash mine in the province will do to the already flagging industry.
There are several conditions set into the approval, such as Yancoal paying to monitor local water and proving it can pay to clean up any spills; however, Nordal said the conditions are not any more than what would normally be put into a deal like this.
“The bar hasn’t been set any higher, the government did not go back and reevaluate their process. In light of all the public outcry not once did they stop to say, ‘Oh, maybe we should look at what we’re doing. Maybe there is a reason all these people have had concerns about this.'”
Yancoal will have to conduct some community engagement activities before construction starts, but Nordal said the company has a terrible record of public engagement.
The landowner said Southey is a thriving community where people moved to be farmers, not live next to a mine – and she believes the mine will ruin it.
“The whole process is just, it’s been wrong, it’s been flawed, the company’s been able to come in and do something against the wishes of people who live there,” she said.
There are still several steps before construction gets going on the mine. Nordal said she and others in the town are regrouping and making plans about what to do next.
Other people living in the surrounding communities have spoken out in support of the mine, saying the development will bring an influx of money and upgrades to infrastructure to the region.