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New mining effluent regulations to be gazetted this fall

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

The revisions to the Metal Mining Liquid Effluent Regulations (MMLER) will be published this fall, probably in November. There will be a 60 day comment period before they become law.

The regulations provide exemptions for the mining industry from Section 36 of the Fisheries Act. That section of the Act says it is illegal to put "deleterious substances in water frequented by fish." The MMLER sets allowable limits for toxics like arsenic, and for total suspended solids.

At present, the regulations do not include mercury, cyanide or cadmium. Although this should mean that they cannot be dumped in water, in fact this has not been enforced.

Although we have not seen the revised regulations, we understand that they will set allowable limits for cyanide, tighten the limits for total suspended solids and define an "acutely lethal effluent" level. That is, if more than 50% of rainbow trout placed in a sample of the effluent die within 24 hours, then it would be in violation. There will also be provision for Environmental Effects Monitoring at sites.

The MMLER revisions have come about after more than seven years of multi-stakeholder negotiations. They aren't good enough. We are hoping that public response will convince Environment Canada to honour Canadians' wishes, and protect our waters from further degradation.

See our press release of May 25, "Federal Timidity on Tough Regulations to Limit Mine Pollution Places Communities, Environment at Risk" for more details.