Woodstock Council’s role in mining approvals is limited and unclear

by | Feb 22, 2024

Mayor assures concerned residents that amended municipal plan and zoning changes will not clear the way for mining companies

With two mining companies actively exploring potential open pit manganese mines within the newly expanded Woodstock boundaries, Mayor Trina Jones explained the town’s role in future decisions remains limited and undefined.

Jones and council members addressed residents’ concerns during the Feb. 13 council meeting.

With a handful of concerned residents in the gallery, Jones led the council in a “clarification” discussion surrounding the town’s role in mining approval.

As far as the ongoing exploration operations, Jones explained, the town holds no involvement.

She explained the Department of Natural Resources issues exploration permits for one year at a time.

Beyond exploration, Jones added, the process to approve a mine would be lengthy, involve environmental impact assessments and require public and council input. She said that such a step remains years away.

“We’re still not clear about our role at the EIA,” she said. “We may have a seat at the table.”

While Jones recognized the frustration of residents living in the areas targeted by two mining companies surrounding the need for more information, she said the town cannot provide mining details.

“It’s not the council’s role to be a conduit for information,” she said.

Jones said the two mining companies are responsible for informing the public about how their explorations and potential mines would affect property owners in the area.

“The right people to answer those questions are the companies,” she said.

Canadian Manganese Company Inc. has staked a claim for a vast portion of land encompassing the Hartford and Plymouth Road area towards the Canadian-U.S. border in Bedell. Next door, in the Jacksonville and Wakefield area, Manganese X Energy Corp holds the mining claim.

Ward 3 Coun. Julie Calhoun-Williams, who represents the Jacksonville and Wakefield areas, said she fielded several questions regarding the mines from constituents.

“I encourage them to direct questions to the company,” she said.

Jones agreed, saying engaging the community is in the company’s best interest.

Under the proposed Municipal Plan and Zoning Bylaw amendments, any existing quarries and open pit mines would be grandfathered under their current zoning. Any new mines or quarries would face stringent regulations, go through the planning advisory committee and require a public hearing process.

Ward 4 Coun. Christa McCartney pointed out all potential mines face “a lot of oversight.”

She explained the “extensive process” includes a review of a mine’s impact on the environment, water tables and neighbouring properties.

McCartney added that even exploration permits require mining companies to submit detailed plans each year regarding the number, size, and locations of core holes.

Jones explained that, as it stands, the council has a say in zoning decisions regarding potential mines but acknowledged the province could change the process.

She noted that before amalgamation extended Woodstock boundaries to include the two potential manganese mines, municipalities, including Woodstock, played no role in mining decisions.

Jones said the council will continue to stay abreast of the situation and ensure zoning decisions go through the required public process,

In the end, she noted, councils may have a role in the process, but municipalities do not approve or reject mines.

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