October 25, 2016 12:53 pm

N.L. premier to meet with aboriginal leaders over Muskrat Falls protests

Workers move rebar at the construction site of the hydroelectric facility at Muskrat Falls, Newfoundland and Labrador on Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Canadian Press

The premier of Newfoundland and Labrador is set to meet with aboriginal leaders today about controversial flooding for the Muskrat Falls hydroelectricity project.

Premier Dwight Ball has already said Nalcor, the Crown corporation building the megaproject, wouldn’t increase water levels for a reservoir before the meeting.

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READ MORE: Protesters occupying Muskrat Falls site putting themselves at risk: Nalcor

About 50 protesters entered the central Labrador site on Saturday and occupied an accommodation complex, prompting the company to remove about 700 workers from the grounds.

On Monday, the company obtained an injunction naming 22 people occupying the site for potential arrest. The head of Nalcor said in a statement that protesters are risking serious injury, and has urged them to depart the site.

The protesters have drawn support from across the country in recent days over concerns about methylmercury contamination that will occur when a 41-square-kilometre area is flooded.

READ MORE: Protesters break into Muskrat Falls hydro site in Labrador, form blockade outside

The project is upstream from 2,000 Inuit and other residents in the Lake Melville region.

Last week, Nalcor agreed to remove more forest cover from the area to alleviate those concerns, but protesters say they also want all soil removed before the reservoir is created.

Three hunger strikers, including Inuk artist Billy Gauthier, who says he has not eaten since Oct. 13, have issued four conditions before they’ll eat again.

They include:

  • An evidence-based approach based on peer-reviewed science to mitigate the effects of methylmercury contamination.
  • An independent assessment of Nalcor Energy’s science and engineering reports on the necessity of imminent, first-phase flooding by the end of this month. If flooding is necessary, height and duration is to be kept to a minimum.
  • Removal of soil to minimize methylmercury contamination, as suggested by independent scientific research, during the second phase of reservoir flooding.
  • A commitment from the federal government that it will participate in a joint monitoring program and fulfil its regulatory obligations related to Muskrat Falls.

The list of conditions is signed by Gauthier, Delilah Miriam Saunders and Jerry David Zack.

© 2016 The Canadian Press

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