Proposed new smelter pollution rules do little to protect health or the environment

November 17, 2004

Patrick Finlay
Director, Minerals and Metals Branch
Environment Canada
Place Vincent Massey, 12th Floor
351 St. Joseph Blvd.
Gatineau QC K1A 0H3

Dear Mr. Finlay:

re: Proposed Notice Canada Gazette Part I, September 25, 2004

MiningWatch Canada submits the following comments in regard to the “Preparation and implementation of pollution prevention plans in respect of specific toxic substances released from Base Metals Smelter and Refineries and Zinc Plants”. I hope they are helpful.

MiningWatch Canada is a coalition of 17 environmental, social justice, labour, Aboriginal and development organizations with a mandate to monitor the impacts of the mining industry in Canada. In this capacity, we have become aware of the devastating impacts of smelter emissions on the environment and human health.

There is no doubt that the 12 facilities located in 6 provinces which make up the Base Metals Sector are major sources of CEPA-toxic substances in Canada (sulphur dioxide, particulate matter and metals such as lead, arsenic, mercury, nickel and cadmium). From some of these facilities, emissions have actually increased over the past few years, including HBMS – arsenic, cadmium, lead; Falconbridge-Kidd – arsenic, cadmium; Falconbridge-Sudbury – arsenic, mercury; Inco-Thompson – arsenic, cadmium, lead, nickel; Noranda- Horne – nickel; and Noranda-Brunswick – mercury. The increased and uncontrolled use of custom feed in these smelters has also resulted in emissions of beryllium and POPs, which were not a problem previously.

The proposed sale of Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting to Ontzinc and the proposed sale of Noranda to China MinMetals make it essential that strong and effective regulation control the toxins emitted from smelters in Canada. It is further troubling that many smelters claim that they cannot reduce their emissions any further, effectively holding the health of their host communities ransom to company profits.

In recent years, we have had occasion to work with unions and community members in Sudbury, Thompson, and FlinFlon, to see their justified concern about the toxins from the smelters, and to witness their hope that the government of Canada can protect them.

The Canadian Environmental Protection Act may provide some protection, but the pollution prevention plan approach is a weak and relatively ineffective instrument. We wish to register our concerns regarding the Gazetted Notice:

1. The CEPA-toxic substances indicated in the Notice are Sulphur Dioxide (SO2 ), Particulate Matter (PM) containing metals, respirable particulate matter less than or equal to 10 microns (PM10), releases to air of lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium and nickel, and dioxins and furans. This should be amended to add other substance of concern, such as antimony, thallium, manganese and selenium.

2. Section 4 states: “facilities are to consider in preparing the plan.” This wording is not strong enough and will be unenforceable. A facility will be able to argue that it considered the factors listed in the section, but rejected them for “X” reasons.

3. Considering the “application of best available techniques for pollution prevention and control to avoid the creation and release of pollutants and waste and reduce the overall risk to the environment and human health” is not strong enough and should require facilities to “apply best available techniques”

4. Table 2, Sulphur Dioxide Targets: The reduction targets specified do not go nearly far enough to address the large variation in environmental performance and the worst performers in the industry, particularly in the case of the three largest emitters of SO2 , Inco-Thompson, Hudson Bay Mining, and Inco-Sudbury which currently constitute over 80% of SO2 emissions to air from this sector. Assigning a 10% reduction to Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting is virtually no real reduction. Meaningful reductions in SO2 can only result if these facilities are required to make their share of significant reductions by 2008.

5. Table 3, Particulate Matter Targets: Targets for both 2008 and 2015 are inadequate. By 2015 reductions should be greater than 95%.

6. Individual CEPA-toxic metals: No specific targets and schedules have been set out for individual CEPA-toxic metals in the Notice except for mercury (table 4). This is a serious omission as emissions of some of these metals, in particular arsenic, have increased over the last few years.

7. Mercury. Since mercury is an inherently toxic substance the level allowed to HBMS by Dec 31, 2008, should be zero. The CWS for mercury is a modest guideline at best and a weak instrument. Furthermore, the CWS requires implementation by provincial jurisdictions, but so far, it is not clear how some provinces intend to implement the CWS.

8. Considering the use of the Environmental Code of Practice. Again, the recommendations in the code need to be enforceable regulation, not voluntary guidelines.

9. Regulation: We strongly endorse the move to regulation in Section 7: “regulation is to be promoted to harmonize regulatory requirements for all base metals smelters and refineries and zinc plants by 2015. These standards are to limit releases of SO2 and PM and be based on world leading best available techniques for pollution prevention and control.” We would urge the government to advance the date for regulation up much earlier than presently envisaged.

10. Granting extensions of time. The granting of extensions can and will compromise the implementation schedule, and the rationale for granting these extensions must be spelled out and their use limited to one time.

11. Confidentiality. Requests for confidentiality under Section 313 should not be allowed, as it compromises public accountability.

12. Compliance and Enforcement. While compliance with CEPA 99 is mandatory, and P2 is not a regulatory instrument it is unclear how compliance will be enforced, and how lack of compliance will be penalized.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Notice for Pollution Prevention Plans under CEPA.

Yours truly,

Joan Kuyek

National Co-ordinator