Canadian ministers urged to better prevent damage from mining

Date of publication: 
21 July 2015

A coalition of over 50 environmental, First Nations, and community organizations from Canada and Alaska are asking Canadian Energy and Mines ministers to take immediate action to prevent further damage from waste dams and pipelines ruptures.

In a letter addressed to the ministers from across Canada, who are finishing Tuesday a two-day meeting in Halifax, the group said that changes to mine waste management policies are urgent, especially after the failure of the Mount Polley tailings site in British Columbia last year.

Based on the findings and recommendations of the Independent Expert Review Panel of the Mount Polley tailings dam failure, the biggest in Canadian history, the Energy and Mines ministers should take immediate measures to assess and prevent the threat posed by similar tailings disposal sites at existing and proposed mines in Canada, they said.

The panel of experts in January released its findings from its investigation of the Mount Polley tailings dam failure, “a modern impoundment that breached and released over 24 billion litres of solid and liquid mining wastes into the surrounding salmon-bearing lakes and rivers,” the letter said.

Pipelines, the Arctic Gateway and the N.W.T

Dave Ramsay, the N.W.T.‘s minister of industry, tourism and investment told that Canada already has regulatory bodies in place to minimize the possible occurrence of environmental damage caused by mining incidents.

He noted the province has had an 870-kilometre oil pipeline running between Norman Wells, in the N.W.T. and Zama, Alberta since 1985. And while there haven’t been major issues with it, he acknowledges that spills are always a risk.

“Accidents happen and it is unfortunate, but we know that pipelines are the safest and fastest way to transport oil (…) You just can’t prevent the unforeseeable,” he said.

He noted his province has been talking to pipeline companies about bringing crude into the N.W.T. to ship Alberta oil from a port on the Beaufort Sea coast through the Arctic.

Ramsay said there’s industry interest in the “Arctic Gateway” idea, but he believes it is still early days.

Asked about the letter, federal Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford said he believes the federal government is taking the right steps through new legislation and said “when it comes to safety prevention preparedness response, we will not compromise.”