If the use of Sandy Pond as a dump site for tailings from Vale Inco’s hydromet processing plant in Long Harbour is going to be at the centre of a major court challenge, the company plans to be in the fight.
A group set on saving the pond, the Sandy Pond Alliance, has expanded its aims in the last year. The group launched a federal court challenge in June, seeking the removal of metal mining effluent regulations from the Federal Fisheries Act.
The regulations allow the government to approve the use of lakes and ponds across the country as tailings dump sites.
Friday, lawyers for Vale Inco argued the company should be given intervenor status in the case, with a right to appeal.
They argued while the case is about the regulations, the primary example being used by the Sandy Pond Alliance in their arguments, their “cause celebre,” remains Sandy Pond and its use by Vale Inco.
The lawyers also pointed to the potential impact for Vale Inco should the Sandy Pond Alliance be successful in prompting changes to the federal regulations.
“One possible outcome of (Sandy Pond Alliance’s) application is that this will prevent the company from proceeding with Sandy Pond,” said Vale Inco lawyer Doug Hamilton.
It was stated that constructing alternatives to the use of the pond would require millions of dollars — potentially hundreds of millions — in additional investment by the company. It is one of the reasons it wants the right to appeal.
“It is not something that Vale is simply prepared to throw up its arms and say maybe it will happen, maybe it won’t, we’re prepared to roll the dice,” Hamilton said.
The Mining Association of Canada and the Mining Association of British Columbia were also represented in court Friday, seeking intervenor status.
The lawyer for the associations, James Thistle, said the changes sought by the Sandy Pond Alliance would ultimately be “an evisceration of the regulatory scheme” and have a national impact, directly affecting the associations’ members.
“We wish to represent the broader interests of the industry and that historical element,” Thistle said.
A director for the Sandy Pond Alliance, Ken Kavanagh, sat silently in the back of the courtroom Friday.
During a break from the proceedings, he told The Telegram even if Vale Inco decided to forget about Sandy Pond and spend the money to build storage for its tailings, his group — with between 15 and 20 core members — would not abandon its Federal Court action.
“We’d say great, glad you came to your senses, but we’re proceeding with fighting (the regulations), because it could be another company in another part of Canada doing the same thing six months from now,” he said.
“I can tell you clearly, the focus of our challenge is not just Sandy Pond. It’s the fact that we have what we think is an illegal regulation that allows any number of ponds and lakes in this country to be used as toxic dump sites.”
A decision on whether or not Vale Inco and the mining associations will be accepted as intervenors is expected as early as next Friday.