Having blocked a US bid to use the Great Lakes as a gunnery range, Canadian authorities have turned their attention to more important land-use issues...like reclassifying lakes as tailings dumps for the benefit of the mining industry.
CBC News has learned that 16 Canadian lakes are slated to be officially but quietly "reclassified" as toxic dump sites for mines. The lakes include prime wilderness fishing lakes from B.C. to Newfoundland....Simple enough, right? Since no one can seriously expect "tailings impoundment areas" to be havens for fish, the welfare of fish currently living in and downstream from these lakes becomes something of an abstraction.
Under the Fisheries Act, it's illegal to put harmful substances into fish-bearing waters. But, under a little-known subsection known as Schedule Two of the mining effluent regulations, federal bureaucrats can redefine lakes as "tailings impoundment areas." That means mining companies don't need to build containment ponds for toxic mine tailings.
Elizabeth Gardiner of the Mining Association of Canada explains that everything is for the best in this best of all possible worlds.
In some cases, particularly in Canada, with this kind of topography and this number of natural lakes and depressions and ponds...in the end it's really the safest option for human health and for the environment," she said.I'm going to go out on a limb, for once in my life, and suggest that if turning 16 freshwater lakes into tailings impoundment areas really is "the safest option," then mining in this case is not an economically or socially or politically or morally viable activity, period.
(Photo: "Nickel Tailings #30, Sudbury, Ontario" by Edward Burtynsky, 1996.)