A group of Southey landowners and farmers, many with kids in tow, crowded into a room at the legislature on Wednesday to say no to a proposal to build a $3.6-billion potash mine on or near their land.
A group of six landowners spoke passionately about the prospect of losing their entire way of life as a Chinese company called Yancoal moves in to take over land that their families have been farming for generations.
The group is frustrated by what they describe as a lack of public consultation about the details of the mine including the environmental impacts. They say the company held town hall meetings with poster boards, but they didn’t address all their concerns.
“The reality is, it’s in our yard here. We are the stakeholders of this project and we are the ones who have concerns,” said Neil Wagner, who was part of the delegation at the Saskatchewan legislature.
He said the community doesn’t need a potash mine to be sustainable because it is already growing through agriculture. He admitted that the issue has caused a divide within the community between people who support the mine project and those who are against it.
In a previous interview with News Talk Radio, a Yancoal representative said the public comment period ended on June 6 and the decision will be made as early as July. But this group is not giving up yet.
“The proper engagement wasn’t done to begin with,” said Thera Nordal. “This isn’t about money for us this is our home and our culture.”
Her home and business is located on the proposed mine site. She said if the company had bothered to really sit down with the people who stand to be directly affected, she said they would have discovered that it isn’t about the money.
The group also expressed disappointment after being granted a meeting with their MLA Glen Hart on Tuesday night. Wagner said he left them with the impression that they may have to make this sacrifice because the province needs the potash mine to bring in resource revenue. They have made several requests to meet with the Environment Minister, which have not been granted at this time.
Not everyone in the region is on the same side of the issue, with many people supporting the potash mine project.
Chelsea Manz lives north of Earl Grey and is part of the local economic development association. She reached out to News Talk Radio to talk about support for the mine. She said everyone stands to benefit from an influx of money in the community along with upgrades to roads and cellular service.
Manz noted that she can understand the emotion involved in this process, noting that you can sense the divide between factions in the area.
“It affects you know family heritage farms, and stuff like that and of course we’re sympathetic to that and we have to just try and work with what we’re given,” she said. “At this stage in the game we should just try and look toward solutions, instead of just keep presenting the problems.
She said the environmental impact reports have already been submitted and she trusts that if SaskWater supports the project, then it must be sustainable for the water supply.
The NDP opposition raised the questions about the consultation process to the Minister of the Economy Bill Boyd during question period at the legislature.
“I want them to know that the government of Saskatchewan has a strict regulatory regime, but it supports the responsible development of Saskatchewan’s resources,” responded Minister Bill Boyd.
“Officials from the Ministry of the Environment, SaskWater, and Ministry of the Economy have accommodated meetings with the public to answer questions and concerns on Yancoal’s potash project.”
Boyd also pointed out that Yancoal has held open houses to consult with the community. He noted that there are many other steps in the process before the operation would be given approval. He said they would be happy to address any further concerns of the delegation from Southey.