Politicians and locals in the Tatamagouche, N.S., area are celebrating new safeguards for their drinking water.
Environment Minister Tim Halman announced Tuesday that the province has designated the French River watershed as a protected water area.
The Municipality of the County of Colchester officially asked the province for the designation back in 2020, following growing concerns over mining exploration between Wentworth and Warwick Mountain in the Cobequid Highlands.
"I'm over the moon," Coun. Michael Gregory, whose district includes Tatamagouche, said Tuesday. "We've worked long and hard on this."
Gregory is also chair of the Tatamagouche Source Water Protection Committee, which developed the provincial request.
The watershed is the only source of water for the people and businesses of Tatamagouche.
The French River watershed covers about 141 square kilometres. It begins in the Cobequid mountains and winds its way down to the Northumberland Strait where it empties into Tatamagouche Bay.
The municipality can now ban activities that could affect water quality within the watershed, like new garbage dumps or mines.
Kathryn Anderson, spokesperson for Sustainable Northern Nova Scotia, said the group has been pushing for this protection since 2018.
That's when they learned that provincial geologists had been exploring the area and conducting tests as part of what the government called the Warwick Mountain Project.
"We absolutely felt we could not risk mining development in our area," Anderson said Tuesday. "It is terrific that this has happened."
The province already committed to sealing a mineral exploration drillhole on Warwick Mountain that had been leaking high-arsenic water for more than seven years.
The hole was drilled in 2011 on private property by a contractor for a now-defunct gold exploration company.
The new protected watershed area covers Warwick Mountain.
For those who wanted the jobs and activity that mining projects bring, Anderson said protecting the area serves to boost the economy in alternate ways through tourism and community agriculture.
Anderson said the protection is a win for the large number of community members and people across Nova Scotia concerned about mining's effects on the province.
"Citizens need to remember that when we have concerns, we really have to step forward," Anderson said.
She added there is still work to be done protecting the remaining six watersheds that fall within a potential Cobequid Highlands mining project, and removing all mining activity from the province.
There is only one active gold mine in Nova Scotia, the Touquoy site in Moose River on the province's Eastern Shore.
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