"When is a mine not a mine?" - IOC - Rio Tinto & IOC's illegal mining activities the subject of a new lawsuit filed by Canadian


Innu Takuaikan Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam (ITUM) press release

Date of publication: 
30 July 2013

UASHAT MAK MANI-UTENAM, QC – The Innu First Nation of Uashat Mak Mani-utenam filed another lawsuit on July 22, 2013, this time in Federal Court, in regard to Rio Tinto’s IOC mining project (in addition to the CAD$900 suit filed on March 18, 2013). While IOC (majority-owned by Rio Tinto) continues to violate the Canadian Aboriginal group’s rights, destroy their environment and intrude on their territory, IOC has announced that the company seeks to open a whole new mine (called Wabush 3) next to their current project in Western Labrador.

Not only would such a new mine be a clear violation of the Aboriginal group’s constitutionally protected and internationally recognized indigenous rights but, in addition, IOC is attempting to avoid an environmental assessment and review of the new mine. The Innu First Nation of Uashat Mak Mani-utenam had no other choice therefore but to file another lawsuit respecting IOC’s activities to attempt to stop such undermining of Canadian environmental laws.

IOC has clearly become a rogue entity. Not only is IOC the only mining operator on the Uashat Mak Mani-utenam traditional territory without an agreement with our people (4 other agreements with other mining companies), but here it is involved with flagrantly violating Canadian environmental law in an attempt to push their new project through at any cost,” stated Mike McKenzie, Chief of the Innu First Nation of Uashat Mak Mani-utenam.

In truly absurd and galling fashion, IOC has described their new mine as a “groundwater extraction project” for purposes of the federal environmental assessment process. As a result, instead of studying and addressing the impacts of the new mine, including on the Aboriginal group, the only impacts that would be considered in the environmental assessment would be those in relation to removing the water that infiltrates into the mining pit.

IOC takes the position, reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland, that the new mine is not a mine. Not even an expansion of its current activities. If such a project is not a mine, it’s not clear what project would qualify as one given that the new project will dig up over 1.3 billion tonnes of earth and will take up 464 hectares of land – the equivalent of approximately 870 NFL football fields.

And yet Rio Tinto and IOC consider that the new mine is but a “water extraction” project.

The new Federal Court proceeding takes issue with that position and asks the Court to overrule Canada’s acceptance of such position. Such an attempt to circumvent environmental laws is all the more troubling given the continued toll that IOC’s mining operations are taking on the environment. For example, without taking into account IOC’s ongoing (illegal) expansion projects, IOC’s mining activities in Labrador already account for close to 15% of the total greenhouse gas emissions of the entire province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

“Rio Tinto and IOC’s violations of our indigenous rights and their egregious environmental conduct should raise red flags for any potential purchaser of Rio Tinto’s shares in IOC, including in respect of how such transgressions would violate the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) codes of conduct of potential investors,” concluded Chief Mike McKenzie.