Regarding the Argentia-Long Harbour controversy over the site for the nickel refining facility, I’ve only had a cursory examination of the news, but I tend to support Inco on this. I visited Long Harbour before the phosphorus plant closed in 1989, and the forests for kilometres downwind from town were dead white sticks from the pollution. Also, as with St. Laurence there were a large number of environmental illnesses, including breathing problems. On the other hand, Argentia has more severe toxins in the soil that Inco is afraid may combine with their chemicals, creating pollution lawsuits in amounts they are not willing, or able, to cover. My impression is that the Argentia environmental impacts are potentially much more dangerous than for Long Harbour.
Both areas are heavily polluted, both are in about the same geographical area, both have similar population bases, and both have good ice-free harbours with established docking facilities. Also, as in the time that the phosphorus plant was in Long Harbour and Argentia benefited from it, both communities should benefit to an extent from the new plant. Finally, I think both communities are supposed to get some of the tax benefits from the plant, and they aren’t that far apart..
I have a background in meteorology, and am familiar with the wind climatology for the Avalon Peninsula. Long Harbour pollutants will tend to affect areas to the east to northeast of the harbour. Argentia will do the same, and because it is further south will be slightly more likely to affect Conception Bay and St. John’s. Also, the fact that Inco is scared of what might happen with Argentia’s toxins from the American base make me think that the environmental dangers are worse there (when a company as large as Inco gets worried about pollution liability, so do I). Finally, as a minor point, a significant number of tourists land at Argentia and some look around at the beautiful local scenery before heading to the TCH. Do we want their first view of Newfoundland to be an industrial wasteland?
I also hear that there is speculation that there is a political drive to choose Argentia from the provincial government. It seems that Long Harbour is in a Liberal Riding, while Argentia is Conservative. I am also under the impression that Long Harbour’s riding is more economically depressed, especially since the phosphorus plant pull-out in 1989.
So, primarily for environmental reasons I would argue for Long Harbour. As a second benefit economic benefits would give a better boost to the Long Harbour riding than they would to the riding containing Argentia, which is already better off. And both areas will benefit to some extent from either choice.
This is just an opinion. Other views are welcome.