Ottawa to review all new and expanded coal mine projects over water contamination concerns – by Emma Graney (Globe and Mail – June 17, 2021)

Ottawa will review all proposals for new or expanded coal mines with the potential to contaminate waterways with an element called selenium, marking the second major coal policy shift from the federal government in a matter of days.

Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson told The Globe and Mail in an interview that while selenium has always been an issue in coal mining, there is growing concern about the harm it causes.

Selenium washes out of waste rock from coal mines and can be toxic to fish populations, causing deformities and ruining their ability to reproduce.

Projects producing more than 5,000 tonnes a day automatically trigger a federal impact assessment, but Mr. Wilkinson said smaller mines also have the potential to release selenium into waterways. So now, all will be reviewed.

The move comes after the government said on Friday that proposals for new and expanded thermal-coal mines are highly unlikely to get the green light owing to unacceptable environmental risks.

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