Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Safest Option

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....

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.
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.

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.)


Anonymous said...

This is really upsetting. I will write to my MP.

Tommy D said...

Hi Bouphonia,

I caught your post about Canadian lakes being turned into dumps and I
thought I'd drop you a line. My name is Thom Duggan and I'm one of the many Canadians working to end this backward plan. So, I just wanted to say hi and thank you, for one.

One of the ways we're going to be trying to keep Canadians involved
and informed on this issue is though the blogging circles in Canada.
I'd like it if you'd agree to join our "blogcorps". It's mostly just a
special list that we'd keep of bloggers, like yourself, who would like
updates and alerts about the issue from time to time (no
coverage-obligation, of course). Some bloggers have signaled that they
want to get involved more deeply in the campaign, and that's great

If you'd like some background information even now on the issue, I can
send you a few things. Or if you'd like to get in touch with someone
from the campaign, either nationally or in your general area, we'll be
able to do that stuff, too (we have a webpage coming soon that will
bring local citizens, bloggers, scientists, and activists
together...more on that later).

We've been blown away by the response online; thanks for being a part
of that. Would you like to receive updates from us on this in the

Thom Duggan
Coalition to Stop Lake Dumping