By JOSEPH MURPHY
Special to The Appalachian
ST. GEORGE’S – When it comes to offshore drilling in Newfoundland, there’s little debate that the East coast is the major area of interest. However, when it comes to mining, the Southwest coast of the province is quickly emerging as the hot spot for exploration and development. That’s just what Mayor Danny Conway of the Town of St. George’s is counting on.
The recent announcement by Red Moon Resources of the planned development of a salt mining operation in Conway’s backyard has the mayor feeling optimistic about long-term employment and the potential for an influx of new citizens to the town, which currently has about 1,205 residents.
“There are about 25-30 employees working at the docking facility for the current gypsum operation, which has the potential to expand to about 100 personnel when operations for the salt mine get underway,” stated Conway. “This will mean a major economic benefit for the area and bring some much needed revenue to the town.”
Conway also believes there will naturally be other added spinoffs, such as infrastructure improvements and even immigration to the area.
“There’s no doubt there’ll need to be improvements to some of the local roads to handle the increased traffic, for example. Currently, the Main Road of the town is the only access to the docking facilities because of a crushed culvert on the haul road. This will need to be addressed.”
Conway also pointed out that further skilled labour may have to be brought in to handle some of the specialized aspects of mine operations.
“Skilled crusher operators will most likely be in demand as the operations continue to expand”.
According to Red Moon media sources, expansion is indeed on the calendar, with projects bringing to market approximately 1,000,000 tons of gypsum mine tailings (residue), as well as high tech renewable energy storage from windmill farms for example, in what’s known as a salt dome. In a June 16, 2021 media release, Red Moon Resources shared that, “…hydrogen opportunities combined with renewable energy storage are helping drive the latest wave of excitement around this resource-rich province.”
As with all development, there is also a potential for a negative impact, although this is one that has plagued the town for some time. According to the Mayor, dust levels in St. George’s have always interfered with town air quality.
“Right now, dust levels caused by truck traffic around town are an issue, especially for some of our older folk. For example, sitting out and enjoying time on the patio can be a problem because of the dust in the air.”
That would have to likely be addressed moving forward. Conway added that there is yet another potential problem that needs examination.
“There is also an issue with the main road currently in use for heavy mining traffic as the route travels through a school zone.”
Conway agrees that added development will likely compound these problems.
“Our local MHA (Scott) Reid (St. George’s – Humber) is aware of the dust situation and there have been discussions to resolve this,” confirmed the mayor.
Reid also stated that the issue was being looked into.
“From my understanding, the dust mostly comes from the portion of the road which is privately owned and therefore doesn’t fall under Department of Highways jurisdiction. However, the issue continues to be looked into and options for the roads and dust are being discussed.”
Reid stated he hadn’t been made aware of the requirement for truck traffic to be routed through the main street due to the haul road closure, but that the issue was something to be further investigated. Mayor Conway suggested repairs have been discussed.
“Apparently, it will cost about $50,000 for the crushed culvert repair, but the source of funds has yet to be identified and responsibility for the repair continues to be an issue.”
Representatives for Red Moon Resources were unavailable for comment.
Mayor Conway remains optimistic about the future, though it’s still early days yet.
“I haven’t had much contact with the company or government about the mine development for a while. I just hope that some of this happens while I’m still mayor.”