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Granite quarrying in Cap Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada


We shall consider two related protests, out of many. One is about Kluscap mountains, a sacred area (also known as Kelly Mountain). The second is in Canso, Guysborough County.

The first protests on Kluscap started decades ago. In the autumn of 1996, Sulian Stone Eagle Herney—Mi’kmaq elder from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, director of the Sacred Mountain Society (SMS), and founder of the First Nations Environmental Network— was invited to talk to an audience at the Stone Angel Café in downtown Ottawa. (5) He spoke of the inseparable relationship between First Nations people and nature/land on which claims to sovereignty were based. He had become an environmentalist, he explained, because without land there would be nothing to be a First Nationist about. He traced his growing intervention in environmental politics to the struggle against a corporate proposal to quarry Kluskap’s Mountain, the site of a cave sacred to Kluskap, a figure of central spiritual importance to Mi’kmaq people, to produce aggregate for road building in the US. Earlier, Herney had been invited to appear before the public inquiry into a superquarry at Lingerbay, southeast Harris, Scotland,  "Herney’s appearance on the Isle of Harris suggests both a common purpose amidst diversity of postcolonial experience at a global level and a certain measure of irony, given the participation of those forced from the land in the Outer Hebrides during the Clearances of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in the colonisation of Nova Scotia (Dalby and Mackenzie 1997; Hunter 1994). On Harris, Herney spoke on that occasion of the rekindling of “traditional values and codes of conduct … that reawakened the true Mi’kmaq spirit and spiritual connection to Mother Earth and theCreator”. (5). 

The conflict on the Kluscap (or Kelly)  mountain continues in 2017 (1). Another granite quarrying conflict takes place near Canso, by the Vulcan Materials  Corporation (see Project Details). 

These conflicts ate interrelated.  In 2017, the Mining Association of Nova Scotia released a report stating that Cape Breton is being  harmed by the provincial government’s Parks and Protected Areas Plan, which limits or prevents mining on development on 154 known mineral occurrences on the island. One of those potential projects is an aggregate deposit in Victoria County that is completely covered by the Kluscap Wilderness Area. Sean Kirby, executive director of the Mining Association of Nova Scotia, said the Kellys Mountain project has the potential to create 80 direct jobs for 50 years or more. “It’s very similar in fact to the quarry that’s at the Strait of Canso...". , he said. (3)  However, Rod Googoo, chief of Waycobah First Nation, says Kellys Mountain is sacred to the Mi’kmaq people, who call it Kluscap Mountain. According to Mi’kmaq legend, the prophet Kluscap (or Glooscap) lived in a seaside cave, known locally as the fairy hole, near Cape Dauphin, at the northern tip of the Kluscap Wilderness Area.

“It’s been in our oral tradition for centuries — they always talked about that. We don’t have a written a history — we have an oral history — and we’ve always spoken about Kluscap Mountain as having a very sacred connection to us,” said Googoo, who is also the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs’ lead chief for lands, wildlife and forestry.

“We, the Mi’kmaq people, we would never dare enter into any place which is considered sacred by any other race — whether it be a temple, whether it be a church, whether it be a mosque — and disrespect it, or deface it, or do something that’s taboo.”(3).

Kirby said while the Mining Association of Nova Scotia agrees with the basic objectives of the protected areas plan, there can be a better balance between the environment and the economy. He suggested a provincially regulated “land swap” mechanism that would allow mining companies to trade other ecologically valuable land for land in protected areas that have valuable mineral deposits.(3).

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Granite quarrying in Cap Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada
State or province:Nova Scotia
Location of conflict: Canso, Guysborough County, Cap Breton; also in Kluskap Mountain.
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Establishment of reserves/national parks
Building materials extraction (quarries, sand, gravel)
Specific commodities:Sand, gravel

Project Details and Actors

Project details

(This refers to one of the proposed quarriesin Canso.. The Kluscap (or Kelly) mountains is another famous case, (4).

A) If the Canso project meets environmental and corporate approvals, construction could begin as early as 2018, bringing with it an anticipated capital investment of $80-million to $100-million (U.S.) and as many as 150 direct and indirect jobs. Over as many as 50 years, developer Vulcan Materials Co. wants to blast and chop up to 400 million tonnes of its granite to ship down the Atlantic coast, where it would be used in roads from Virginia to Florida. (2)

B) Kluscap (or Kelly Mountain). The Mining Association of Nova Scotia hopes to develop a quarry in the area of Kellys mountain in Cape Breton, but the Mi’kmaq say the land is sacred.

The picturesque landscape is covered by the Kluscap wilderness and considered First Nation's holy ground, but the association believes there’s an aggregate deposit of over 2 billion tonnes on the mountain in New Harris, Nova Scotia. .Protesters from First Nations communities gathered near the mountain Saturday, Nov. 25, 2017.

“This mountain is sacred to us because it is the departure point of our hero in Kluscap,” says protester, Suzanne Patles. “It is the home of the Kluscap caves where we performed ceremonies.”

Executive director for the Mining Association, Sean Kirby says construction of a quarry could potentially employ dozens.

“If we were able to make a quarry there it would employ about 80 people directly for a half century so it's a tremendous economic opportunity for the province,” says Kirby. “ Johnanna Padelt from the Inverness Chapter Council of Canada says it’s not the first time the idea of mining or quarrying on Kelly’s Mountain has been discussed. She was part of a group protesting against a company called Kelly Rock Ltd., in the late 1980's.(6).

Project area:360
Level of Investment:100,000,000
Start of the conflict:1989
Company names or state enterprises:Mining Association of Nova Scotia from Canada
Vulcan Materials Co. from United States of America
Relevant government actors:Mining Association of Nova Scotia
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs.
Sacred Mountain Society (SMS).
First Nations Environmental Network.

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Social movements
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Mi’kmaq First Nation
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Refusal of compensation


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Violations of human rights
Other socio-economic impactsImpact of wilderness which is of spiritual value to First Nations.


Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Under negotiation
Development of alternatives:Conserve wilderness and sacred spaces, Support tourism.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:Some of the proposed sites for quarrying granite still under discussion by 2017. The Mining Association of Nova Scotia is proposing "land swaps" (although it is difficult to swap sacred sites).

Sources & Materials

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

(5) Moving Mountains: Community and Resistance in the Isle of Harris, Scotland, and Cape Breton, Canada. A Fiona D Mackenzie and Simon Dalby. Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, Carleton University,

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada;

(4) Alf Hornborg, Canadian Review of Sociology/Revue canadienne de sociologie 31(3):245 - 267 · July 2008. Environmentalism, Ethnicity and Sacred Places: Reflections on Modernity, Discourse and Power.

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

(1) Cape Breton Mining project protesters slow traffic on Kluscap Mountain. JEREMY FRASER Cape Breton Post . December 17, 2017.

(6) CTV Atlantic, Cape Breton First Nations protest mining on Kellys Mountain . Nov 25, 2017.

(3) Between a rock and a sacred place on Kellys Mountain. Cape Breton Post. Nov 19, 2017

(2) Ballad of Fogarty's Cove: The Nova Scotia legend, a hard reality and a quarry; clash between cultural preservation and economic development. JOSH O'KANE. GUYSBOROUGH COUNTY, N.S. Globe and Mail. 2016.

Northern Cape Breton quarry expansion approved. Chris Shannon ([email protected]). Province attaches conditions to Money Point project

SYDNEY, N.S.The provincial government has approved the Money Point quarry expansion in northern Cape Breton following an environmental assessment review.

The decision was released by Environment Minister Iain Rankin on Friday afternoon along with conditions that must be met. Dexter Mining Inc. of Bedford wants to increase production at a gravel quarry it currently operates on top of Money Point Mountain, near Bay St. Lawrence, to 50,000 tonnes per year for the next 40 years.

Owner of Cape Breton quarry aims to expand operation

If approved, Rhodena quarry would grow from 4 to 17 hectares

Frances Willick · CBC News · Posted: Jun 20, 2017

Meta information

Last update16/07/2018



Source: Globe and Mail


Source: JEREMY FRASER Cape Breton Post . December 17, 2017