Incomplete Reporting Still Reveals Mining Companies' Toxic Threat

For Immediate Release

Ecojustice
Contact: 

Justin Duncan 416-368-7533 x22

Incomplete Reporting Still Reveals Mining Companies' Toxic Threat

Environmental groups worry some of Canada's Mines are Dragging Feet on Federal Order to Report Toxic Mining Waste

TORONTO - New data
released Friday in response to a lawsuit won last year by
Ecojustice,
on behalf of Great Lakes United and MiningWatch Canada, is beginning to
shine a
light on the toxic legacy of Canada's mining and tar sands industries. 

Unfortunately,
despite a lawsuit and a government order to report
pollutant releases, some facilities have failed to comply.

"The public
is finally starting to get a picture of the extent of the
toxic burden created by Canada's mines, but even now - after an order by
a
federal court judge and the Minister of the Environment - some mines
have failed
to report," said Justin Duncan, staff lawyer for Ecojustice, and who
represented
Great Lakes United and MiningWatch Canada in the case.

"Right now
we know that at least 500,000 tonnes of toxic substances
are being added to tailings ponds and waste rock piles across the
country every
year. But until the rest of the facilities report, we won't have a full
picture."

Data
released late last week through Canada's National Pollutant
Release Inventory (NPRI) reveals for the first time some of the
pollutants
released by mines to their tailings and waste rock dumps between 2006
and 2009.
It showed approximately two million tonnes of pollutants placed
in
tailing and waste rock piles between 2006 and
2009.

Even despite
several metal mines and coal mines not reporting as
Environment Canada expected them to, available data clearly indicates
mine
waste often contains massive amounts of heavy metals such as lead,
arsenic and
other pollutants like sulphuric acid, that pose major threats to the
environment
and human health.             

"The public
has a right to know what toxics are being stored near
their communities and watersheds, especially as evidence continues to
grow that
tailings dumps leak," said John Jackson of Great Lakes United.

"Even as
these wastes build up year after year, there are mines that
still haven't provided a picture of the risk they pose. Environment
Canada must
fully enforce the law against those mines that fail to
report."

According
to the data from Environment Canada, 58 of Canada's 86 metal mines
reported to
the NPRI, as did 1 of 22 coal mines. While all are not required to
report,
Environment Canada stated that some expected mines did not provide data.
The
department said it will follow up with non-reporting and probable
under-reporting facilities, and refer them to the enforcement branch as
necessary.

In
total, reporting facilities indicated they had disposed of more than
500,000
tonnes of toxic waste in tailings ponds and waste rock piles in 2009.
This
includes toxic substances like lead and sulphuric acid and
cancer-causing
substances, such as nickel, arsenic and chromium
.

The
numbers further highlight the need for better regulation and long-term
waste
management practices in the mining industry, including treatment of mine
wastes
during the decades after mine closure.

"Industry
has to do a better job locating and constructing waste facilities,
monitoring
them and guaranteeing that they have the financial assurances in place
for mine
cleanup," said Ramsey Hart of MiningWatch. "But first, we need the
government to
ensure that all facilities fully report their pollutant releases as the
Court
ordered them to do."

In 2009
Federal Court Justice James Russell ruled that the federal
government must end its illegal exclusion of mine tailings and waste
rock
pollution from the NPRI - Canada's
legislated, publicly-accessible inventory of pollutant releases to air,
water
and land.

###

Ecojustice, formerly Sierra Legal Defence Fund goes to court to defend the right of Canadians to a healthy environment.  As Canada's largest and foremost non-profit environmental law organization our trusted voice in the courts enables citizens to expose lawbreakers and hold governments accountable, all while setting powerful precedents for clean water, natural spaces, healthy communities and for global warming solutions.

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