Government to Sacrifice More Canadian Lakes to the Mining Industry

Jamie Kneen Communications and Outreach Coordinator responsible for: strategic research, social media, and public engagement; our Africa program, environmental assessment, and uranium mining.

MiningWatch has learned from Environment Canada (EC) that together with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) they now maintain a list of some twenty lakes that are slated for destruction by mine waste over the next few years. This amounts to a massive public subsidy to the global mining industry in the form of healthy Canadian lakes.

The wholesale sacrifice of Canadian lakes as a simple and cheap “solution” for the disposal of highly toxic waste (tailings) from mining started in 2006 with the destruction of two lakes near Buchans, Newfoundland, for mine waste from a mine run by Aur Resources. Both lakes contained brook trout and Atlantic and land-locked salmon.

“Last November I warned that the lakes in Newfoundland would be just the tip of the iceberg. Canada is sacrificing its lakes to profits for foreign investors and making a sham of the environmental assessment process and the Fisheries Act”  says Peter Stoffer, NDP Fisheries and Oceans Critic (Sackville-Eastern Shore).  

The next lakes on the chopping block are in Nunavut, related to the Agnico-Eagle Mines Ltd.’s Meadowbank Gold project and Miramar Mining Corp.’s Doris North project. Both of these companies expect to see lakes added to Schedule Two of the Metal Mining Effluent Regulations by the end of this year. By being added to Schedule Two lakes undergo “regulatory transformation” from healthy fish-bearing sources of fresh water to Tailings Impoundment Areas that are environmentally toxic and required to remain dammed off from surrounding land and water forever.

“Environment Canada insists that in the case of the Nunavut projects all regulatory and procedural i’s have been dotted and t’s have been crossed and that DFO is confident that the fish habitat can be ‘compensated for’” says Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada, “but regulatory process is only part of what concerns Canadians. We are most concerned about a process that results in the permanent destruction of our precious fresh water resources and lake habitats for short term mining profits.”

The issue of “consultation” is a thorny one. In the case of Aur Resources, public outcry from all over Canada and a lengthy public consultation process delayed the company’s projected starting time.

According to Environment Canada, the consultation process has now been made “more efficient” and has been streamlined by “front loading” the consultation as part of the Environmental Assessment process.  According to Coumans, “What this effectively means is that the consultation process is now a local one, which is unacceptable. Canadian lakes are not just local assets, they are sources of fresh water that are of critical importance to all current and future generations of Canadians.”

Environment Canada insists that its process is the envy of other countries. However, they seem to have lost sight of the fact that the end goal of their process is to provide justification for the destruction of Canadian lakes by the mining industry. “It is time for Environment Canada and Natural Resources Canada to think about why it is that American investors are interested in developing mines in Canada that use lakes as waste dumps, when this practice is effectively banned in the U.S.” says Coumans.

- 30 -

For more information contact:
Peter Stoffer, MP, Parlimentary Office - (613) 995-5822 or (902) 861-2311
Catherine Coumans, MiningWatch Canada – 613-569-3439 or 613-256-8331; catherine(at)miningwatch.ca

For more information see: "Environment Canada Flings Door Wide Open to Toxic Dumping in Canada’s Lakes"