Vale won’t change its mind

Deana Stokes Sullivan
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Activists call for protection of Sandy Pond in light of B.C. decision

Vale says the federal government’s decision this week to reject the Prosperity Mine project in British Columbia will have no effect on its plan to use Sandy Pond for the disposal of tailings from its hydromet processing plant in Long Harbour.

Vale spokesman Bob Carter said Wednesday the project was registered with both the federal and provincial governments for environmental assessment in March 2006, and following an extensive public review, both governments approved Vale’s environmental impact statement and released the project from environmental assessment in 2008.

“We have all of the necessary federal and provincial approvals we require for the Long Harbour project,” he said. “The recent federal decision on the Prosperity Mine project does not affect our plan to use Sandy Pond for residue disposal.”

The decision against the proposed B.C. gold-copper mining project near Williams Lake was announced Tuesday by Environment Minister Jim Prentice. It was based on the conclusions of a federal review panel that the mine would have significant adverse effects on the grizzly bear population, in addition to destroying Fish Lake and damaging other streams.

The Tsilhqot’in First Nation, which considers the area their traditional territory, had launched a campaign against the proposal and the Council of Canadians delivered 15,000 petitions to Parliament Hill, opposing the project.

While the decision is being celebrated as a victory by environmental groups, it has also prompted a call for the protection of other lakes in the country, including Sandy Pond.

The Taseko application for Prosperity Mine was made under a Schedule 2 provision of the Federal Fisheries Act.

“Once added to Schedule 2, healthy freshwater lakes lose all environmental protections,” the council said in a news release, noting “there are 12 other lakes in Canada threatened by Schedule 2, including Sandy Pond.”

Maude Barlow, national chairwoman of the Council of Canadians, said, “We must now ensure that other lakes across the country are protected by ensuring that the loophole in the Fisheries Act is removed and that the practice of dumping toxins into lakes is prohibited in Canada as it is in other industrialized countries.”

A group called the Sandy Pond Alliance launched a lawsuit in June, seeking the removal of metal mining effluent regulations from the Federal Fisheries Act. Lawyer Owen Myers says that court challenge is still ongoing with a decision expected soon on applications for intervener status from Vale, the Mining Association of Canada and Mining Association of British Columbia.

“We have all of the necessary federal and provincial approvals we require for the Long Harbour project.” Vale spokesman Bob Carter

Angela Giles of Halifax, the Atlantic region organizer with the Council of Canadians, was in St. John’s this week attending a Sandy Pond Alliance annual general meeting. On Wednesday, Giles spent some time visiting Long Harbour.

“I think it’s definitely hopeful that the federal government has made this landmark decision,” Giles said. “… We are still hopeful to save Sandy Pond and any other Canadian bodies of water that may be under threat of falling through the cracks under Schedule 2 of the Fisheries Act.”

Ken Kavanagh, newly elected chairman of the Sandy Pond Alliance and chairman of the St. John’s chapter of the Council of Canadians, cited the federal government’s concern about Fish Lake and its connecting streams.

“If the environmental impact is specifically related to damage to that particular pond in B.C. then, from our perspective, I think we would say that’s kind of making chalk of one and cheese of another,” Kavanagh said, “because this particular project here is doing the ultimate damage to Sandy Pond. It’s going to destroy it.”

Kavanagh is pleased with the decision.

“If any lake in Canada is saved from destruction by any means, we’re obviously happy and I guess I would say, certainly, we’re hoping what happened there might have some bearing on the situation we’re trying to do in terms of saving Sandy Pond.”

Sierra Club B.C., which has actively supported the Tsilhqot’in First Nation’s opposition to the Prosperity Mine, said Fish Lake would have been Canada’s fifth pristine natural water body authorized for destruction through this Fisheries Act loophole, which was originally introduced solely to allow mines already approved and in existence to complete their economic life cycle.

“It boggles my mind that the B.C. government would have even considered destroying a huge, well-stocked fishing lake that is of great significance to an indigenous community, and is surrounded by cultural sites including First Nations burial grounds,” said Sierra Club B.C. executive director George Heyman.

Organizations: Prosperity Mine, First Nations, Sandy Pond Alliance Sierra Club Mining Association of British Columbia.Angela Giles of Halifax

Geographic location: Sandy Pond, Canada, Fish Lake Long Harbour British Columbia Long Harbour.Vale Williams Lake Atlantic

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Recent comments

  • me
    November 07, 2010 - 22:11

    minister johnson is doing another deal in corner brook the tire burning deal with poor joe .

  • dogloc
    November 07, 2010 - 00:49

    Vale like most foreign conglomerates that take over Canadian industries & our natural resources have no respect for the workers or the environment in Canada or any other country where they own mineral rights,they have a bad record in most countries toward employees & environment .Canada must put more restraints on these people to save the environment & supply long term jobs

  • Michael
    November 05, 2010 - 14:41

    Terribly short sighted of us to use a fresh water source in this manner. I support the Sandy Pond alliance. Vale should dispose of tailing in a more environmental friendly way. Both the feds and the provincial counterparts ought to be ashamed of themselves for approving this tailing pond.

  • Brad
    November 04, 2010 - 10:26

    If anyone expected Vale to change their minds then they are kidding themselves. Using these ponds is a huge benefit to them as it will save them millions of dollars, and they can wash their hands of all the responsibility of the environmental disaster they created, and we get to look at it forever. If we had any First Nations in the area this wouldn't be happening. I laugh when they say extensive public review when the public opinion obviously didn't count as most don't want it done this way, and they didn't advertise when this garbage EIS was open for criticism. The only people who reviewed it were government who stand to benefit financially, which I feel is a conflict of interest. Charlene enjoy your free ride because your day in power is coming to an end bimbo.

  • William Daniels
    November 04, 2010 - 09:13

    Minister Johnson has done nothing but pander to big business since she was elected. This Sandy Pond disgrace has happened with her approval. Voters need to show her the door next year.

  • james
    November 04, 2010 - 09:08

    vale dirtiest mining company in the world you will be sorry