Sherritt International Corp., the company that owns the Obed mine 30 kilometres northeast of Hinton, could now be responsible for the largest coal mining waste-water spill in Canadian history.
But could government regulators and environmental authorities have done more to prevent it from happening?
A billion litres of slurry spilled into the Athabasca River on Halloween when a storage pond at the Obed mine site broke apart.
Slurry is the concoction of materials and chemicals, including coal and thickening agents called flocculents, mixed with the water in the mine storage ponds. Coal mines in Alberta are required to contain liquid runoff to prevent it from pouring into the provincial waterways. Consider this an epic fail.
A spokesperson for Sherritt initially told the Parklander the waste-water consisted of “naturally occurring” materials, but mentioned the extra chemical agents, which are standard for coal-mining storage ponds, after further inquiry.
The spill was innocuously labelled a “sediment release” by Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development. Continue Reading →