A 1999 Environmental Progress Report from the Mining Association of Canada has been dismissed as "spin" in a critique distributed by MiningWatch Canada.
A reading of the report shows that six of the ten toxic substances followed have in fact increased since 1996: arsenic, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, hydrogen sulphide and zinc. The MAC report hides this fact by making comparisons with a base line arbitrarily set in 1988.
Only 17 companies participated out of 30 MAC members and hundreds of mining companies in Canada. None of the data has been independently verified.
"It is clear from this report that we cannot trust the industry to monitor itself. Results only come from regulation and enforcement," said Joan Kuyek, National Co-ordinator for MiningWatch Canada. A KPMG study in 1996 clearly showed that 90% of companies make environmental improvements because of regulation, but only 15-20% make do so voluntarily.
"We might believe the Environmental Progress Report meant something if MAC and its members stopped their corrosive lobbying to reduce money that goes to compliance and enforcement of regulations."
"If they want us to believe them, they have to stop trying to gut the Fisheries Act," says Kuyek. Section 36 of the Fisheries Act declares that it is illegal to "place deleterious substances in waters frequented by fish."
However, for the past 26 years, the mining industry has had an exemption to this Act called the Metal Mining Liquid Effluent Regulations, or MMLER. This regulation is their licence to pollute: it sets limits for how much of certain toxins can be placed in water and under what conditions. For the past seven years, government has been working with industry and environmentalists to update the MMLER.
The mining industry has done everything it can to block progress. They have tried to tie limits to technology they already have, instead of to health impacts. They have opposed changes that would include more sensitive water creatures in testing. They have fought to keep the limits high. They have prevented a monitoring system that would lead to prosecuting offenders. They lobby to dump tailings and mine wastes in oceans and lakes.
In 26 years, there has never been a charge laid under the MMLER, although the industry itself admits that 25% of companies are currently breaking the law.
"Canadians are not fools," says Kuyek, "We want to see action, not words."
For more information, contact: Joan Kuyek, MiningWatch Canada, telephone 613-569-3439