Gold Mine Layoffs Blamed on
Westray-Related Firings

No one left in the Department
with the expertise to approve any kind of mining permit

Gold Mine Layoffs Blamed on
Westray-Related Firings

Natural Resources and Labor "in turmoil"

"I don't even know who our inspector is now"

By Steve Proctor

This article appeared in
The Chronicle-Herald
Halifax, Thursday, 22 January 1998

TANGIER, N.S. — A Tangier gold mine has been forced to lay off half its workers because Westray-related firings and suspensions have delayed government approval of an application for a mining permit, says the mine manager.

But the Natural Resources Department says the application review is proceeding normally and has not been unduly delayed by government reaction to the Westray disaster.

Peter Atkinson of Tangier Gold Inc. said 17 workers at the Blueberry Hill mine were laid off Dec. 31, 1997. Another 15 who were to start work underground Jan. 2, 1998, were turned away because Natural Resources and the Labor Department have been stripped of their mining expertise, he said.

"We applied for a mining permit on Dec. 4 and felt it was proceeding along normal channels quite well," Mr. Atkinson said in a telephone interview. "Then (Transportation and Public Works Minister) Don Downe held his press conference responding to the Westray report."

As part of its response to the Westray report, the province fired former chief mines inspector Claude White. It also suspended three mining engineers pending a review of their dealings with the Westray mine.

Mr. Atkinson said when he checked with Natural Resources the next day on the status of the application, he was told the people who normally process them were on paid leave.

"In essence, they said there was no one left in the Department of Natural Resources or Department of Labor with the expertise to approve any kind of mining permit."

After several meetings, Mr. Atkinson was told independent consultants hired by both departments would evaluate the application, with a report to government due Jan. 15.

"I had a crew of people that we'd hoped to get working underground right at the first of the year, but a two-week delay was manageable," he said.

Now, a Jan. 15 startup has been missed, as well as two dates for visits by Natural Resources staffers to the mine. The former Coxheath gold mine property is fifteen kilometres southeast of Sheet Harbour.

Natural Resources spokesman Blain Henshaw confirmed a consultant has been hired to look at engineering considerations and department staff are evaluating other parts of the Tangier application.

"You can go to any jurisdiction in the country and you won't get a mining permit through in thirty days," said Mr. Henshaw. "And in this case I think you have to take into consideration Christmas, New Year's and to some small extent the Westray announcement ... It's not sitting on the shelf gathering dust."

Tangier received environmental approvals for the mine last March and hopes to eventually employ 78 people.

Mr. Atkinson said two dozen workers are now putting stockpiled ore samples through the milling process.

"The stockpile will last four to six weeks. If we don't get a permit by that point we'll have to lay everyone off except two or three people for maintenance purposes."

Dennis Fischer, manger of the stalled lead-zinc mine in Gays River, said government reaction to Westray has left Natural Resources and Labor "in turmoil."

"I don't even know who our inspector is now," he said in an interview. "I hope they get it sorted out quickly."

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