1. Zinc

The ScoZinc mine. Photo: Mining Journal

“ScoZinc Mining Ltd. said Monday December 24 that it is poised to be one of Canada’s next base metal producers after releasing a project update and improved economic study for its wholly-owned ScoZinc zinc-lead mine in Nova Scotia,” reports Resource World Magazine:

The forecast came after the company said it has completed additional technical and economic optimization studies to update the February 2018 Preliminary Economic Assessment for the mine. “Project returns remain very robust as increased throughput, lower Canadian dollar assumption, and lower initial capital largely offset lower metal price assumptions,” the company said in a press release.

ScoZinc is an established zinc and lead exploration and development company that owns the ScoZinc Mine near Halifax. The mine last operated from mid-2007 through early 2009 before it was shut down following a dramatic decline in zinc and lead prices during the 2008-2009 financial collapse.

The updated PEA envisages the sequential development of two open pit operations on the Main deposit, followed by the development of the Northeast deposit.

Both pits are located in close proximity to the mill. A small underground operation ranging from 250 to 500 tonnes per day will be mined in year five to provide high-grade mineralization for blending with the open pit feed.

The mine is in Cooks Brook, near Shubenacadie.

2. Yarmouth ferry

A photo of the Alakai, the ship used for the Yarmouth ferry.
The Alakai. Photo: Halifax Examiner

“Facility and staffing requirements for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) may jeopardize the plan to resume international ferry service between Bar Harbor and Nova Scotia next year,” reports Becky Pritchard for the Mountain Desert Islander, the news site for Bar Harbor:

According to a Dec. 11 letter sent to [Bar Harbor Town Council Chair Gary] Friedman from Matthew Hladik, CBP Area Port Director from Portland, CBP would require Bay Ferries to “enter into a Reimbusable Services Program (RSP) Agreement to provide the staffing resources needed, in addition to providing CBP with a fully compliant facility.”

“They want five full-time officers,” councilor Matthew Hochman summarized.

In addition for paying for CBP staff, Bay Ferries would need to renovate the building to remediate Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) and asbestos found in the building on the ferry terminal property, according to the letter.

“The design and construction of a facility of this size generally takes 12 to 18 months to complete,” Hladik wrote. “Given that the ferry season typically begins in June, and sufficient funds for the project have yet to be identified, we feel that the facility presents a notable challenge to beginning international ferry service in Bar Harbor in 2019.”

3. Pedestrians struck

A Halifax police release from Saturday, Dec. 22

2058hrs – police responded to the Mumford Bus terminal for a report of a pedestrian hit by a bus.  A 73-year-old woman crossing the roadway in a marked crosswalk was hit by an Halifax transit bus exiting the bus terminal. The woman was transported to hospital by EHS for treatment of non life-threatening injuries. The collision remains under investigation and no charges have been laid at this time.

A Halifax police release from Sunday, Dec. 23:

At 3:34 a.m., Halifax Regional Police responded to a vehicle & pedestrian collision at Robie Street / Cogswell Street Halifax. An adult male was crossing Cogswell Street and was struck by a taxi travelling East on Quinpool Road to Cogswell Street. The pedestrian sustained life-threating injuries and has been transported to the hospital. The driver, an adult male has been arrested for leaving the scene of an accident. Investigators with the Accident Investigation Section and Patrol are conducting the investigation, which is in the early stages. 

Update: The driver, a 33-year-old male from Dartmouth has been charged with Fail to Stop at the scene of an accident causing bodily harm, under the Criminal Code and will be appearing in Halifax court Wednesday. There is no further update regarding the pedestrian.

An RCMP release from Monday, Dec. 24:

At 3:55 a.m. this morning, Ingonish RCMP responded to a collision involving a vehicle and a pedestrian on the Cabot Trail in Ingonish. 

A 31-year-old man was pronounced deceased at the scene after being struck by a Ford F-150 as he walked along the Cabot Trail. The driver of the truck was not injured.

I don’t know if this is related or not, but here’s an RCMP release from Dec. 19:

Nova Scotia RCMP checked 5252 vehicles at 88 strategically located checkpoints across the province on December 1 as part of National Impaired Driving Enforcement Day. 

As a result of those checkpoints, seven people were charged with Impaired Driving by Alcohol, one faces charges for Impaired Driving by Drug and four were issued roadside suspensions for alcohol.

It’s probably not a scientific survey (drunk people can avoid checkpoints), but that sample shows that about 1.2 per cent of drivers stopped at the checkpoints that day were drunk or otherwise impaired. That surprises me; I’ve always assumed that upwards of five per cent of drivers on the road at any given time are impaired. Maybe we’re making progress.

4. Tire burning

The Lafarge plant in Brookfield. Photo: Media Co-op

“All the hurdles have been cleared for Lafarge Canada to burn tires in the kiln in its cement plant near Brookfield,” reports Francis Campbell for the Chronicle Herald:

“We have started the concrete foundations and the roadwork we need to get ready for the project,” Robert Cumming, environmental director for the company, said in a recent interview. “The equipment is ordered and it will be delivered over the next couple of months. Throughout the first three months of next year, we’ll be building the system, testing it, to see that it meets all electrical and structural requirements. The plant will be shut down at that time as it normally is in the winter.”

The kiln will burn only smaller tires that had been used on cars and light trucks. There will be a limited storage space constructed to keep about four days’ worth of tires but mostly they will be sent to the kiln as they arrive by truck, Cumming said.

A March or April startup of the plant is likely and the tire-burning project should be a go shortly after that.

5. An escort’s night

Cannabis is legal, but growing it for sale without Health Canada certification is still a crime. Of course, there have been and still are plenty of illegal grow-ops around town, and for the most part, they are victimless crimes: willing buyers and sellers hurting no one, life goes on.

But that doesn’t mean some of those growers aren’t bad people. A recent application for a search warrant for a suspected illegal grow-op on Duncan Street on the central peninsula gives insight not so much into the growing of cannabis, but rather into the dangerous life of an escort.

As explained in the document, written by Constable Phil Apa, police were called to a Duncan Street address at about 1am on December 16. A resident said that young woman had arrived on his porch asking for help. Police came into the house and tried to talk to the woman, who I’ll call Amanda.

Amanda “had a laceration to the back of her head which was bleeding substantially,” according to a police report written by Constable Cole Hawes. Amanda told Hawes that she was an escort on something called “Leo’s List,” and that within five minutes of entering her date’s apartment, she had been hit twice with “a blunt object,” probably a baseball bat or pipe. She fled, leaving behind her shoes, phone, and purse.

Amanda didn’t know the name of the man who had attacked her, and had only an uncertain address (which she got wrong). She further said that he was 20-25 years old, with curly blonde hair and a slim build. Oh, and there was a snake in the apartment.

Amanda was described as “uncooperative,” telling police her “boyfriend” (the quotes are Hawes’) was somewhere outside waiting in a black BMW, and she only wanted “police to do their job and get [her] shit back.” Responding EHS members wanted Amanda to go to the hospital but she refused treatment and signed a waiver to that effect.

Soon after, one of the cops found a man sitting in a black BMW out on the street. The man is identified in the police reports as Brandon Fraser. A man named Brandon Fraser has in the past been arrested on human trafficking and other charges; I see no reports of a conviction on the human trafficking charge, and I can’t be sure that this is the same man identified in the search warrant application..

Fraser told police he didn’t know Amanda, but just then Amanda jumped into the passenger seat, and the pair drove off. By 2am, police noticed the black BMW circling the area.

Then, at 3:18am, police responded to a breaking and entering call at another address on Duncan Street.

As Constable Cassandra Teed was arriving at the scene, she saw a man and a woman getting into a black BMW, and checking their IDs, found they were Amanda and Fraser. They said they were merely “sleeping” in the car.

Inside the residence, man named Robert Myer said that a man and woman were trying to kick his door in. “He stated he has never seen either male or female before, and had no idea why they were trying to get into his house,” wrote Teed in her report.

Teed went back out to talk to Amanda, who showed her a long text exchange with Myer, in which Amanda was asking for her stuff back.

Then, back to Myer. “Officers explained the reason for the revisit, and Myers invited the officers inside,” wrote Teed. “Myer was cautioned…” Myer finally admitted he had hired an escort, Amanda, for the evening, and that he had placed her stuff out on the porch. But Amanda said things were missing from the purse — including her daughter’s health card.

There’s a third police report, written by Constable Joseph Boutilier.

“While speaking to Myer,” wrote Boutilier, “officers noticed blood on the railing on the interior stairwell leading upstairs, as well as blood on the stairs themselves. Myer had blood on his neck as well as on his pants.”

Concerned that there may have been an injured person or people inside, police searched the apartment and came across the grow-op.

Police held the scene and went to get a search warrant. JP Krista Young signed off on it, and the warrant was executed. Eighty cannabis plants and various equipment were seized.

Myer was arrested for cultivating cannabis.

Amanda and Fraser were arrested for attempted breaking and entering.

None of the accusations contained in the police reports or the search warrant application have been tested in court.

I found someone I believe is Amanda on social media. She looks to be in her early 20s; she has two children who she dotes over.

6. Fire hazards

Tillock is lit by candlelight as per the Christmas Eve tradition! Beautiful! @sack_vegas

— Pink Flamingo Designs (@pnkflamingo18) December 24, 2018

“A beloved Christmas tradition in Lower Sackville, N.S., for the past 20 or so years that saw hundreds of candles lined up on the sides of a few streets to serve as ‘Santa’s runways’ was shut down by fire crews on Christmas Eve this year after a complaint from a resident,” reports Richard Woodbury for the CBC:

Sheldon Bisson started the practice after getting the idea from a relative who was doing the same thing in Lindsay, Ont. This year, he had about 250 candles set up, which are made by using a wooden base, attaching a two-litre pop bottle to it and placing a 7½-inch candle inside of it.

Bisson, 70, started the tradition as a way of giving back to the community. He’s called Sackville home for 44 years and said kids loved the candle display.

“Some of them thought that Santa would find them because of the candles on the street,” he said.

On Monday night, Halifax fire crews were dispatched to investigate after a resident complained about a possible fire hazard from the display.

The sidewalk Christmas lanterns catching fire was a gag in Bad Santa, so the idea has been around for a while, and with Paradise burning up….

7. Nepi

Nepi. Photo: Group for Research and Education on Marine Mammals / Levon Drover

“A group of marine researchers says a young beluga whale is too attached to the Maritimes for his own good,” reports Alex Cooke for the Canadian Press:

Nepi, who’s estimated to be about four years old, was spotted in Summerside, P.E.I., in early December, much to the delight of a local diving class.

Robert Michaud, scientific director of the Quebec-based Group for Research and Education on Marine Mammals, says it’s worrying to see a young beluga getting friendly with people while away from home — especially when it’s a repeat offender, like Nepi.

“This young whale would be much better hanging around with others of his own kind in the St. Lawrence area. This is why we moved it back to Cacouna,” he said. “The question is why he went back again. Is it the individual temper of this guy to be adventurous?”

While most belugas live in the Arctic, their southernmost habitat is in the St. Lawrence Estuary: a critical habitat for belugas, which are protected under Canada’s Species at Risk Act.

As of 2012, the St. Lawrence Estuary was home to an estimated 900 belugas — though they say there could have been as many as 10,000 belugas in the estuary before 1885.

8. Crows

YouTube video

“They arrive alone, in pairs or in small groups, flying in from every direction just before dusk to a part of Halifax overlooking the Bedford Basin,” reports Frances Willick for the CBC:

By the time twilight falls and the sky’s blue is deepening to black with every second, the treetops are filled with crows — thousands upon thousands of them.

“It just gets black with crows,” said Fleurette Sweeney, who lives at a retirement home for nuns behind Mount Saint Vincent University, which is pretty much ground zero for the nightly crow convention. “It’s hilarious. The cacophony of sound is incredible.”

They’ve been flocking to the area between about Seton Road and Flamingo Drive for decades in numbers that have been estimated at up to 8,500.

It’s an amazing sight, driving over the MacKay Bridge at dusk and seeing hundreds or thousands of crows flying from Dartmouth and points beyond over the harbour to their nighttime roost.

I have a giant oak tree in my back yard, and a decade or so ago a murder of crows, maybe 40 or 50 birds, would plop in and sit around all day. One day, I was working in my office and I heard a loud racket, so went to check it out… there was a full-on crow war going on, with the murder in my tree being attacked by another murder. I’ve never seen anything like it; it was the damnedest thing. The birds were dive-bombing at each other, squawking like crazy, and there was blood flying everywhere. This went on for maybe 20 minutes before the war parties retreated. I didn’t find any crow carcasses afterwards, which astonished me.

A few times in the years since, I’ve seen gull wars over the south end, between the container piers and Bearly’s, but those were nowhere near as vicious as was the crow war above my backyard.

Nowadays the crows don’t visit my oak tree in so many numbers, but there are always a half-dozen or so in the vicinity. I get the sense they know who I am, and seem to be OK with me being around. I want to try to communicate with them somehow.

Anyway, Willick reports two funny interactions between the Mount crows and people:

Amanda Dodsworth, who grew up on a nearby street and still lives in the neighbourhood, said she recalls seeing them in the early 1980s, and her mother remembers them in the area as far back as the 1960s.

By the time Dodsworth was a teen, the natural phenomenon had taken on a slightly creepy bent, with the theory that each crow was a nun from the Sisters of Charity Motherhouse who had died and returned for a visit.

“We used to drink up in those woods when we were 13 and 14 years old and there was always the scary story about the crows following you or watching you,” she said.

Ah, to be 13 and drinking in the woods again…


[Retired prof Fred] McGowan often tags baby crows in their nests, and the adults, to put it mildly, do not look favourably on that.

“I’ve had up to 75 crows mobbing me when I go to a nest … flying overhead and yelling and insulting my ancestry and stuff like that — generally noisily expressing their displeasure at my presence on the planet.”

The crows began to recognize McGowan when he was nowhere near a nest, too.

“It’s like, ”Ah, it’s that guy!… And everywhere I’d go in town, minding my own business, I’d get mobbed.”

Eventually, he decided to make friends out of his enemies. McGowan now carries unshelled peanuts with him wherever he goes, and the crows know it.

All this is great fun, but what Willick doesn’t get into is the potential threat to this giant crow collection. Specifically: what happens to them when the Motherhouse Lands get developed?

Recall that:

Southwest Properties and Shannex propose to develop a new high density, mixed-use neighbourhood in Mainland North, Halifax (Map 1), on a 73-acre site that is commonly referred to as the former Motherhouse Lands. A total of 3,000 residential and assisted living units are proposed within a mix of multi-unit and low density buildings together with a range of commercial and institutional uses. At full build out, the proposed neighbourhood is expected to contain approximately 7,000 residents.

Here’s the development area:

And here’s the current Google Satellite image of the property:

That’s a lot of trees for the crows. What happens when most of them are cut down to make way for housing for 7,000 people?

A fellow by the name of Roger Stein, who coincidently lives on Canary Crescent, raised exactly this objection at a public hearing on the proposed development back in 2016; according to the minutes of the meeting, Stein said:

The subject lands are home to many crows and wildlife. There is a 70% beautiful canopy of trees. Post construction requires a 30 to 40% tree canopy. It is more economical for the developer to remove the entire canopy and replant to achieve what is required. When is it enough?

Southwest anticipated the concern about the crows and addressed it, sort of, in a flyer:

COMMENT | What about the crows that live in the area?

We have sought professional consultants about the crows in the area. Their nesting grounds are on the MSVU property, and their socializing grounds are located on the community site. All construction activity will be planned and undertaken in accordance with Municipal and Provincial requirements with respect to mitigation of impacts on flora and fauna.

No doubt Southwest will abide by all municipal and provincial requirements, but will that actually protect the crows roosting habits?

To be sure, there’s already been considerable encroachment on the crows’ roosting area, and crows can obviously adapt to humans and their ways. Maybe it won’t be an issue at all. Maybe they’ll just make do with whatever trees are left, or move on up into the Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes Wilderness Park.



No public meetings today or tomorrow.

On campus

Universities are closed.

In the harbour

02:30: CMA CGM Orfeo, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for New York
05:30: Tiger, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southampton, England
07:00: Jennifer Schepers, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Kingston, Jamaica
07:00: Ef Ava, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Reykjavik, Iceland
07:30: BW Lioness, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from IJmuiden, Netherlands
08:00: Algoma Integrity, bulker, sails from National Gypsum for sea
11:00: Ef Ava sails for Portland, Maine
15:30: Southern Highway, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Portbury, England
17:00: Tiger moves to Pier 31
18:00: Jennifer Schepers sails for Kingston, Jamaica
21:30: Southern Highway sails for sea


I don’t do year-end retrospectives, but if they’re especially ridiculous, I might do a round-up of retrospectives.

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  1. Yeah, screw the crows. Down here in Shelburne County, we’re getting the benefit of efforts by Northern Pulp and twelve of their corporate pals – operating as Westfor Management Inc and aided and abetted by a pro-clear-cut govt and bureaucracy – scheduling two massive clear cuts, certain to obliterate the habitat for threatened mainland moose and endangered lichen, plus dozens of bird and mammal species. This is designed in part to feed biomass power plants here and to create wood chips shipped to China. One positive result is the formation of citizens group Our Forests. Our Future, determined to fight the clear cuts to the last lichen crusted, bird nesting tree.

  2. Don’t crows tend to congregate in those mass roosts where there is artificial light all night, thus allowing them to see predators? I’m surprised to see such concern in Halifax. When I lived in Ontario in the 1990s, there was a huge roost near Windsor and it was considered a terrible public nuisance by everyone who lived nearby. IIRC the trees were dying from their presence too. Many different things were tried – guns, noise-makers, distress calls, etc but as far as I am aware none of it had any significant effect.

  3. The clearcutting has begun on the Motherhouse Lands. So far the machinery hasn’t reached the crow roost. But I wait with dread for the crows to realize what’s happening.

  4. I don’t mean this to be in any way disrespectful. At the Mount, where I taught for many years, folks often speculated that those crows were nuns who’d passed away, and who returned to campus every night to make sure their students were safe.