Sierra Club – Chebucto Group
from Shunpiking magazine:
The following article appears in the current (April, 1996) issue of Shunpiking. It was written by Tony Seed, Shunpiking editor/publisher. (Thanks for releasing this article to us, Tony.)
By TONY SEED
“Who was Jim Campbell anyway?”
“I have seen men hunt over a pile of nearly worthless quartz for an hour, and at last find a little piece…rich in silver and gold – and this was reserved for fire-assay! Of course the fire-assay would demonstrate that a ton of such rock would yield hundreds of jobs–and on such assays many an utterly worthless mine was sold.” – Mark Twain, writing about the Nevada gold rush of the mid-1800s
CHETICAMP–Jim Campbells Barren is a 1,700-hectare tract southwest of Cape Breton Highlands National Park.
No one seems certain about the origin of its name or who is behind the present gold-mining speculation. But since the Liberal cabinet removed it from a list of “protected areas,” everyone’s been talking about its future.
If gold is there, and to be mined, there is one set of questions. Will it mean dozens of jobs for thousands of unemployed Cape Bretoners, and a leeched heap comparable to Syndey’s tar ponds?
If the talk is nothing but talk, there is another series of questions. Do we have another scandal like Bre-X, differing only in scale? (Bre-Xs Indonesian deposits were touted to contain 30-200 million ounces of gold; the Barren is said to hold 15 million.) Or are we heading into yet another pyramid-type scheme like the one that ruined tens of thousands of people in Albania on a more dramatic scale?
How secure was Jim Campbell’s from exploitation even before removal from the “protected areas” list on November 21?
The province’s own planning documents stipulate that its management of Crown land protects private interests with mining or forestry claims that predate listing.
Since the Barren and still-“protected areas” such as the Tobeatic were already staked or under exploration, this raises another question. Who promoted this planning exercise, leaving such a large and costly loophole intact, and why? What’s to stop a favoured few retaining such claims, then holding the public up for ransom as the price of ensuring that a protected area remains undeveloped and natural?
If this is the story, then why was the public consulted? When people demand and get protection of Crown land but the government can then reverse it, who is sovereign?
Delisting is another story. It triggered the spotlight, which focused the publicity that moved barrels of cash overnight purely “on spec,” rapidly enriching those maneuvering the shell corporations issuing stock, like Regal Goldmines. But who instigated the idea that the Barren had to be delisted in order to be developed, and where does the pyramid lead?
Based on a study it commissioned, the Cheticamp Development Corp. formally requested that Cabinet delist the Barren, and has taken the heat since. To attract new businesses, this group develops contacts; with Enterprise Cape Breton, a development arm of the federal government, and with development agencies of the provincial government.
But, through these agencies, multinational corporations also extend their tentacles into Canada’s remotest corners.
In cabinet or at the stock exchange, are we to believe nothing but Cheticamp small business is at work, or something else? An entire campaign has erupted, with the media creating a false division amongst the people across the province as to whether you’re “for the environment” or for jobs “instead.” With our attention thus diverted, are vested interests maneuvering to turn our Crown lands – a public trust – into a source of private tribute for the rich?
The Sierra Club thanks Halifaxs Chebucto Community Net for assistance and resources without which this site would not have been possible.