November subscription drive
I’m really bad at self-promotion, so I’m going to let Trevor Parsons give today’s plug for the November subscription drive:
This @HfxExaminer travel mug won’t help you survive in #WildNovaScotia, but it will keep your coffee warm on the way to the trail head. More importantly, subscribing to the Examiner helps to support some of #NovaScotia‘s best investigative journos. Subscribe, damn it! pic.twitter.com/dl3Yad3Xyv
— Trevor Parsons (@DartmouthCommon) November 18, 2018
Freedom Denial of information
“If you’re denied access to information even after the information and privacy commissioner has reviewed your request and deemed it legitimate, your only recourse is to take the government to court,” writes Stephen Kimber, after reading Information and Privacy Commissioner Catherine Tully’s latest report. “At your own expense, of course. It doesn’t have to be that way. It is because it’s in the government’s interest to keep you from knowing.”
This article is for subscribers. Click here to subscribe.
2. Atlantic Gold
Frances Willick, reporting for the CBC, reviews the public comments submitted as part of the environmental assessment for Atlantic Gold’s proposed open-pit mine at Cochrane Hill.
In her “Fool’s Gold” series, Joan Baxter took a hard look at Atlantic Gold’s operations, including the currently operating open-pit mine at Touquoy, at what used to be the village of Moose River Gold Mines (before mining operations swallowed the village).
Baxter first looked at the use of cyanide at Touquoy:
According to Chrissy Matheson, a spokesperson for the Department of Environment, the Touquoy mine uses 35 tonnes of cyanide per week, which is transported in pellet form. In an email, she said it is transported “from Halifax to the site via highway 102, highway 227, highway 224, through Middle Musqoudoboit and finally Moose River Road to the Touquoy Gold Mine.”
Sodium cyanide is a highly poisonous compound, deadly if ingested. Were a truck carrying it to be involved in a fire, or overturn and spill its load of pellets, an emergency response would require immediate isolation and possible evacuation of the area hundreds of metres from the site. Sodium cyanide is water-reactive, so a spill into any waterway, even a water-filled ditch, would be extremely serious.
The cyanide for Atlantic Gold is being transported on narrow and winding 200-series roads that, in winter, are often extremely slippery.
Atlantic Gold’s plan is for a “Moose River Consolidated Project,” which involves starting three more mines — at Cochrane Hill, Beaver Dam, and Fifteen Mile Stream — and hauling the crushed rock from those mines to Touquoy to be processed. (The Cochrane mine is the subject of Willick’s article.)
Atlantic Gold plans to truck all the extracted ore from Beaver Dam to Touquoy for processing. This means 20 trucks – each carrying 31 tonnes and travelling at 70 km an hour – each making nine trips a day, 350 days of the year. The company says the trucks will be on the roads for 12 or 16 hours daily. That works out to 23 – 32 trucks per hour, or a truck passing every two or three minutes.
Originally, the company planned a route that included 15.4 km of private logging roads and 16.4 km of public roads. However, as this would have taken the trucks past the Beaver Lake Reserve and residences belonging to it, CEAA requested an alternate route. Atlantic Gold has now proposed using 23.4 km of private road and 11.3 km of the public Mooseland Road.
In addition to the ore moving from Beaver Dam to Touquoy, Atlantic Gold also plans to transport ore from the proposed mine at Fifteen Mile Stream to the mine at Moose River for gold extraction. The ore to be transported will be “concentrated” and 95 per cent of the ore extracted at Fifteen Mile Stream will stay behind as waste rock.
This second route involves 52km of public highway, including 17km on Highway 374, 4km of Highway 7, 31km on Highway 224, and then 11.9km on the Mooseland Road. Trucks will make 11 return trips every day.
A third plan is in place for the concentrated ore from the proposed Cochrane Hill mine, which will be hauled some 140km to Touquoy for processing. The Cochrane Hill ore will be transported in 38-tonne payload trucks, which will ply about 123km of public roads. This includes about 80km on Highway 7, three kilometres of which are to be “realigned.” While the mine is operating between 2022 and 2027, the moving of ore from Cochrane Hill will involve 10 or as many as 20 trucks a day, until 10 or 11 each night.
Nova Scotia promotes the Eastern Shore region to tourists as “an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise” and Highway 7 as a scenic “Marine Drive.” Putting aside the increased risk of traffic fatalities on these public roads with the heavy truck traffic, and the effect it might have on tourism and human well-being in eastern Nova Scotia, there is also the question of what this will cost in added wear and tear on roads and bridges.
Baxter goes on to explore the gigantic costs of upgrading and maintaining the public roads for Atlantic Gold’s operations, and questions the dubious claims that gold mining brings substantial work and tax revenues to the province.
Early this year, I reported on the collapse of the Dufferin gold mine, an event which seems to have been missed by all other media:
A third claim has been filed against Maritime Dufferin Gold Corporation.
Dufferin Gold is a division of the Vancouver-based Resource Capital Gold Corporation. In the spring, it was operating an underground gold mine at Port Dufferin and was aiming to open three more mines at West Dufferin, Forest Hill, and Tangier. But mining operations appear to have stopped, with Dufferin Gold leaving behind a string of creditors.
Last month, I reported that Central Equipment and Battlefield Equipment had claims of $37,766.33 and $70,680.44 respectively against Dufferin Gold. This week, the New Brunswick-based Source Atlantic Limited has filed a $25,653.68 claim against Dufferin Gold; Source Atlantic says that amount represents money owed for services plus a 24 per cent annual interest agreed to by Dufferin Gold.
As I wrote last month:
The Dufferin mining operation was plugged in the Fall 2017 edition of The Geological Record, a publication of the provincial government that cheerleads for the mining industry:
Resource Capital Gold Corporation of Vancouver continues to ramp up production at the Dufferin mine near Port Dufferin, Halifax County, N.S. The company reports that 3235 tonnes of ore were processed in the gravity separation mill in September at a recovered grade of 8.0 g gold per tonne. The mill has a capacity to process 300 tonnes per day. The company is incrementally increasing its reclamation security and will continue to do so until April 2018. At that point, the province will hold sufficient funds to reclaim the site in accordance with the reclamation plan.
So far as I can determine, there’s been no announcement that mining has ceased at Dufferin, but without equipment, I don’t know how work can proceed.
Supposedly, about 50 people have been working at the mine.
In “Fool’s Gold,” Baxter shows that both the government revenue and employment numbers for Atlantic Gold may not be as promised:
On the revenue side, however, it is impossible to calculate what the province will actually receive from the mines in royalty payments. In Nova Scotia, like most jurisdictions in Canada where the mining industry is so influential and so heavily influences policies, the government receives a one per cent royalty of the “net value” received by the gold producer. This allows corporations to deduct the capital expenses of expanding mining operations and the operating costs of gold production, and pay no royalties until they declare a profit.
According to Jamie Kneen of MiningWatch Canada, corporations may be paying themselves very well, but paying no royalties for the minerals they are extracting because of all the expenses they can deduct before royalties are paid to governments.
By contrast, partner corporations that share in the ownership of Atlantic Gold’s mining properties are paid three per cent “net smelter” royalties (NSR), which means royalties are paid to partners on the actual value of the gold produced at a mine.
As for taxes, posters at the open-house sessions for the proposed Fifteen Mile Stream and Cochrane Hill mines said that the estimated amount of combined federal and provincial taxes the mining operations would pay in their four and five years of operation would be $90.2 million and $62.5 million, respectively.
Gold is a finite resource. Whatever minerals are mined in the province should benefit not just Nova Scotians today, but also their descendants. If the royalties are low or negligible, and the taxes hardly cover the costs of road repairs let alone environmental liabilities of the mines, then can we at least expect the jobs they create help balance the equation?
In 2015, when the consolidated project included the Touquoy and Beaver Dam mines, it was estimated that in Year 3 of operation, Atlantic Gold would employ 72 people (both departmental and hourly labour) and in Year 6, that number would be 128.
When two more mines were added to the project, numbers changed.
In an email, Tom Ellard, Atlantic Gold’s VP business integration & people, told me that in March 2018 the Touquoy mine had 240 full-time employees who lived in the “surrounding communities.” He estimated “a headcount of over 150 full-time jobs at each site after construction,” and “hundreds of workers” at each site during construction. He did not respond to follow-up questions about where exactly all the employees came from, and if they were unionized, so I have not been able to verify any of these claims.
In the BNN interview three weeks earlier, Atlantic Gold’s CEO Steven Dean said that Touquoy currently employed “just over 200.” In the consolidated project’s second phase with additional mines, there would be up to 350 jobs. Asked if skilled miners at Touquoy were making “well over $100,000 a year,” Dean replied, “Not that much, but still a good base salary.” He also said the workforce was commuting from Halifax and Dartmouth.
3. Security Forum
I go back and forth on the annual Halifax International Security Forum. Some years I make a big deal out of it, other years I just let it fade into the blur of all the other horrendous shit happening in our world.
But this year, I’m looking forward to listening to the Dog Island boys’ take on it.
4. Oil spills, protected areas, and the future of the planet
“An oil spill off the coast of Newfoundland caused an estimated 250,000 litres of crude to leak into the ocean, Husky Energy said Friday,” reports Malone Mullin for the CBC:
The leak, from a flowline to the SeaRose FPSO, a vessel stationed about 350 kilometres off the Newfoundland coast, happened around mid-day on Friday in the White Rose field while crews were preparing to restart production.
Operations had been halted Thursday due to high winds and rough seas.
Oil extraction remains suspended as the cause of the spill is investigated, but ocean swells of up to seven metres are preventing any underwater examination, Husky spokesperson Colleen McConnell said.
The spill cannot be contained or cleaned up until waves subside.
The spill is equivalent to one-tenth of an Olympic-sized swimming pool, much larger than a 2013 leak in the nearby Grand Banks field, when 6,000 litres were lost.
In 2004, more than 165,000 litres of oil spilled from the Terra Nova vessel in the same vicinity. At the time, it was the province’s largest spill.
Meanwhile, “conservation groups say Canada’s process to establish marine protected areas is being undermined by oil and gas activity,” reports Holly Lake for iPolitics:
The latest concern comes after new oil and gas leases were awarded last week by the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB). The leases are for areas that fall within the Northeast Newfoundland Slope Conservation Area. Designated last December by the federal government, it’s one of the largest marine refuges in Canadian waters — and the largest single closure on Canada’s East Coast — covering 46,833 sq. kilometres.
The refuge was created under the Fisheries Act, and prohibits all bottom-contact fishing activities within its boundary to protect sensitive sponges and corals — which are considered vital fish habitat.
Earlier this year, the petroleum board’s call for exploration bids was criticized by conservation groups and scientists. At that time, Nick Whalen, the Liberal MP for St. John’s East, insisted it was “perfectly reasonable” to drill for oil in the protected area — despite it being closed to the fishery.
Scientists disagree. Sponges and corals don’t grow just anywhere; they’ve established themselves on the slope because of favourable conditions that don’t exist elsewhere. They’re also a critical part of the ecosystem and are devastated by bottom contact.
“Do they really need to drill in 100 per cent of the ocean? Or can we set aside a percentage for protection? That’s what it really comes down to,” said Susanna Fuller, a marine biologist with Oceans North.
“If we can’t make money off 90 per cent of the ocean, there’s something wrong.”
And, “Nova Scotia’s energy minister says he remains confident in the potential of the province’s offshore, despite the most recent drilling effort failing to find a commercially viable resource,” reports Michael Gorman for the CBC:
Earlier this week, Hess Corporation, a partner with BP Canada in the Scotian Basin Exploration Drilling Project, announced they would permanently seal a well after drilling down 7,400 metres.
While BP still holds exploratory licences for other areas until January 2022 as part of a $1-billion exploration commitment, there are currently no applications from it or any other company looking to drill, according to a spokesperson for the Canada Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board.
The news comes on the heels of Shell Canada capping two of its own exploratory wells in the last two years when it failed to find what it was seeking.
None of this, however, deters Energy Minister Derek Mombourquette, who said this week he remains “very optimistic.”
“This is a long-term process. So it takes time and BP is still committed to the area,” he said.
Mombourquette said his confidence is rooted in the province’s own science and research, which produced the Play Fairway Analysis, a document that essentially acts as a map of the province’s resources, geology and topography offshore that can be used by companies to make exploration decisions.
“We’ve spent millions of dollars in the last number of years on [the analysis], which tells us that there is resources offshore.”
Sure, what the hell. Scientists tell us we’re headed for certain calamity if we don’t immediately change our ways, we’re spilling oil left and right, and entire cities are burning up from fires exacerbated by climate change… but ya know, our RRSPs are invested in oil stocks, and we all know people who worked the rigs for a year and made a ton of money, so what are we going to do, eh?
No one much cares that we’re destroying the planet.
And please, save me your “the planet will be fine, it’s just humans who will be destroyed” nonsense. First of all, it’s not true. Human activity is wiping out species at unprecedented rates, and ocean acidification has the potential to eventually kill all oxygen-breathing life. Tell the fast-disappearing whales that only humans are being destroyed and they have nothing to worry about, and hear their diss tack in response.
But even if you take the ridiculously long view that the planet itself won’t be blown into bits, and geologic processes and evolution will eventually obscure the harms we’re doing, and I guess the extinct whales will be replaced with future new and improved whales, I’m of the anthropic view of the universe: nothing has meaning outside of human perception and understanding. No one called this orb “the Earth” until humans came around and named it and gave it meaning, so take away the humans and there’s no Earth; likewise it’s only our mental conception of life that gives it meaning. It’s right there in the Bible:
Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field.
But besides all that, we’re sitting around arguing about philosophy while there’s a cataclysmic crisis unfolding. That’s kind of perverse.
5. Bullying story
I’ve avoided linking to or commenting on the story of bullying in Cape Breton.
I’m sure most readers know the story: a 14-year-old boy with cerebral palsy was pushed down into a stream, then pelted with rocks and walked over as a human bridge, the whole ugly scene caught on video and uploaded to social media.
My thought was, and is, that while this is obviously ugly behaviour, the 14-year-old is a victim, and our first concern should be for his safety and well-being. I’m wasn’t convinced that publicizing the incident, much less naming the boy, would be helpful.
Over the weekend, Parker Donham echoed my concerns:
Serious question: Why did reporters and editors withhold the names of the Glace Bay teens who bullied a boy with a disability, but name the boy who was their victim?
— Parker Donham (@kempthead) November 18, 2018
The boy was named by his mother, who gave consent on the boy’s behalf to the media to use his name. This seems problematic.
I may be wrong, and maybe there’s nothing wrong with how the story was reported. I just get weirded out by stories about kids.
Unless of course they’re sticking razor blades in their Halloween candy as a prank, in which case I think they should be named and shamed.
6. Waterfront beer garden
“A series of missteps by a Nova Scotia Crown corporation has led to a critical report over its refusal to release documents around its creation of a waterfront beer garden, currently operated by the Stubborn Goat,” reports Alexander Quon for Global:
Information and Privacy Commissioner Catherine Tulley released the report last week, criticizing Develop Nova Scotia — at the time known as Waterfront Development Corporation Limited — for its decision to withhold most of the information about successful and unsuccessful bids placed in 2015 to create a waterfront beer garden.
The organization that had requested the documents is not identified in the report, but it says information was requested about the five businesses that had submitted bids to create the beer garden.
According to Tully, the Crown corporation’s refusal to turn over the documents despite a request under the province’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPOP), fly in the face of “public accountability in the expenditure of public funds.”
Police Commission (Monday, 12:30pm, City Hall) — councillor Lindell Smith gets sworn in as the newest commissioner, and the commission will review the public complaints process.
Accessibility Committee (Monday, 4pm, City Hall) — lots of staff presentations, but no action items.
No public meetings.
No public meetings this week.
EA and Asia‑Pacific Relations: an Overview (Monday, 11:30am, Room 304, Dunn Building) — Hungdah Su from the National University of Taiwan will speak.
Cancer survivors’ experiences and outcomes following cancer treatment (Monday, 12pm, Room 409, Centre for Clinical Research) — Robin Urquhart will speak.
Cybervetting and the Public Life of Social Media Data (Monday, 2:30pm, Room 3089, Rowe Management Building) — Anatoliy Gruzd and Philip Mai from Ryerson University will speak.
Analytic geometry over Z (Monday, 3:30pm, Room 319, Chase Building) — Daniele Turchetti will talk about the work he does with Jerôme Poineau. The abstract:
This talk is intended to be a friendly introduction to analytic spaces over the rational integers Z. Motivated by arithmetic and algebro-geometric problems, I will present Poineau’s theory of Berkovich spaces over Z, that are spaces of valuations enjoying nice topological properties. These spaces naturally contain various sorts of simplicial complexes, allowing the use of combinatorial methods coming from tropical geometry. At the same time, they encode information about the interplay between complex, real, and p-adic geometries, making them suitable to solve arithmetic problems.
As an instance of this, I will explain how the combinatorial and arithmetic sides can be exploited to construct and study families of classical geometric objects such as Kleinian groups and algebraic curves.
Bring your own Kleinian group.
War in Yemen and Saudi‑led Military Intervention (Monday, 5pm, University Hall, Macdonald Building) — Farea Al-Muslimi and Spencer Osberg from the Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies, along with William Fenrick, former senior legal advisor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, and Brian Bow of Dalhousie’s Department of Political Science, will speak on the what the UN calls the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis.”
Women Prisoners & the Right to Health (Monday, 7pm, The Nook, 2118 Gottingen Street, Halifax) — Martha Paynter will speak. It’s a small space, so get there early.
Indigenous Mental Health in Canada: A Public Conversation (Monday, 7pm, in the theatre named for a bank, QEII Health Science Centre) — panelists are Christopher Mushquash, Canada Research Chair, Indigenous Mental Health and Addiction; Amy Bombay and Margaret Robinson from Dalhousie University; Margot Latimer and Diane Obed, Aboriginal Children’s Hurt & Healing (ACHH) Initiative; and Mi’kmaq activist Michelle Paul.
Thesis Defence, Oceanography (Tuesday, 2pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Janelle Hrycik will defend her thesis, “Estimating Particle Dispersal in Aquatic Systems: A Comparison of new and Conventional Technologies.”
Welcome reception for Teresa C. Balser, Provost and Vice‑President Academic (Tuesday, 4pm, Atrium, Ocean Sciences Building) — you can both hob and nob.
In the harbour
05:30: Hoegh St. Petersburg, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from New York
07:45: Acadian, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Portland
10:00: Mol Paramount, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Colombo, Sri Lanka
17:00: Ef Ava, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Portland
17:00: Tasing Swan, chemical tanker, arrives at Pier 9 from Port Cartier, Quebec
17:00: Cielo di Salerno, oil tanker, arrives at Imperial Oil from New Orleans
18:00: Mol Paramount sails for New York
20:30: Ef Ava sails for sea
21:00: Paxi, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk
Where are the Canadian military ships?
I’ve been following Steffan Watkins ever since the National Post profiled him:
Steffan Watkins was about to go to bed last June 17 when he noticed a report about a lethal collision between a U.S. Navy destroyer and a huge container ship near Japan.
Instead of turning in, he turned to the various sources he uses to track shipping and aircraft worldwide — much of it military — to try to find out how the surprising accident occurred.
Watkins, an IT-security consultant in Ottawa, documented the minutes leading up to the mishap that killed seven aboard the USS Fitzgerald and posted it on his website, vesselofinterest.com. “It was like watching a car crash remotely.” Then he finally got some sleep.
When Watkins woke up the next day, his breakdown of the accident was causing a stir worldwide.
“I guess I was the first person to do any analysis of this, because it just lit up the next morning,” he says. “I was quoted all over the place — the Daily Mail, New York Times. It was kind of cool.”
Watkins uses publicly available information — the same Automated Information System (AIS) data that marinetraffic.com uses to track commercial ship traffic — to follow the world’s military ships. In April, he wrote a post about tracking Canadian military ships:
The Royal Canadian Navy deploy their fleet of Halifax-class frigates globally, but only some of their deployments are noticed and picked up on on the press. This isn’t from the military’s lack of trying; there are multiple cases where a story has been floated by DND’s official social media accounts, but gets no press coverage. Thanks to the magic of AIS transponders, installed on the whole fleet, but only activated with the consent of the ship’s command, we can skip all the middle management at DND and get the ships’ coordinates directly from the the ship itself, over marine VHF (~162MHz), and the Automatic Identification System (AIS).
To many people it seems concerning that we would be able to follow a military deployment with live location data, as it beacons every few minutes. Thankfully, Canada and NATO’s adversaries don’t rely on AIS to target or find Canadian ships worldwide. They know NATO procedures and understand in a time of conflict or operations the AIS transponder is set to receive only, turned off for our purposes, and does not transmit, so as to not give away their location either through ELINT, or reading the AIS data for free from MarineTraffic.com.
In the months since, Watkins and I have been corresponding, and he very graciously is allowing me to use his MarineTraffic script to post the most recent known locations of Canadian warships, as seen on the map below (you may have to zoom out to see the entire map).
Update: this may not be working. I’ll try to fix the map throughout the day.
I’ll post the map every Monday. As usual, I’m running out of time this morning, so I’ll have more to say about this next week, along with explanatory information to make sense of it all.
Oh, and be sure to check out Watkin’s post from the weekend, “The Canadian Forces may be ignoring a nuclear waste problem they may have in Goose Bay.”
Did I mention subscriptions? They’re the lifeblood of this operation.