Canada failed at monitoring waste dumps from mining companies – by Carl Meyer (National Observer – April 2, 2019)

Canada’s federal environment and fisheries departments failed at monitoring unauthorized waste dumps by mining companies and did not always check if these firms were carrying out plans to save fish from lethal chemicals, Canada’s environment commissioner has found.

Julie Gelfand examined seven metal mine projects to figure out how Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) were fulfilling their duties to oversee the safe disposal and storage of the liquid sludge that comes from industrial chemicals used in mining to extract materials from crushed rock.

That process created a byproduct filled with harmful materials to fish like cyanide, zinc and selenium, which the industry calls “effluent.”

For diamond mines and metals like gold, copper, iron and nickel the industry is allowed to release some of this effluent into bodies of water, which become tailings ponds. As of June 2018, 42 bodies of water across Canada were being used in this way.

If those ponds leak into the surrounding area, they could release harmful waste that kills fish. That’s what happened with the Mount Polley mine disaster in British Columbia in 2014, when a dam breached and a copper and gold mine tailings pond flooded into Polley Lake as well as nearby lakes and rivers.

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