Groups ask why no charges have been laid a year after Alberta coal mine spill – by (The Canadian Press/Globe and Mail – November 12, 2014)

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EDMONTON — Conservation groups want to know why no federal or provincial charges have been laid over a massive spill from a coal tailings pond in west-central Alberta.

An estimated 670 million litres of waste water spilled into tributaries that feed into the Athabasca River after an earth berm broke at the Obed Mountain mine on Oct. 31, 2013.

The mine was owned at the time by Sherritt International, which has since sold it to Westmoreland Coal Company. Groups including the Alberta Wilderness Association say Sherritt should be charged under the federal Fisheries Act.

They also say they want both governments to make public what was in the tailings, how the spill has affected the rivers and how it may affect the health of people who live downstream. Federal officials and staff at the Alberta Energy Regulator were not immediately available for comment.

“The lack of enforcement and charges for a spill of this magnitude calls into question the approval of any mining development in Alberta,” Brittany Verbeek, a spokeswoman for the wilderness association, said Wednesday.

Other groups calling for government action include Keepers of the Athabasca Watershed Society, the Aboriginal Alliance of Alberta, MiningWatch Canada, North Saskatchewan RiverKeeper, Central Athabasca Stewardship Society and the Mikisew Cree and Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations.

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