Mining company at centre of Sept-Îles oil spill

Ashley Fitzpatrick
Published on September 6, 2013

Both the provincial and federal government are following up on a heavy fuel oil spill at a plant operated by iron ore producers Cliffs Natural Resources in Sept-Îles, Que.

According to information provided by officials with the two governments, the spill took place at a pellet plant at Pointe-Noire over the weekend and was reported Sunday to officials with the Quebec government and Environment Canada.

Cliffs Natural Resources operates the Bloom Lake mine in Fermont, Que., and the Wabush mine in Labrador, but the pellet plant and dock facilities for the operations are in Sept-Îles.

The Quebec provincial government has stated the initial, rough estimate is about 1,000 litres of fuel escaped site protections, reaching into the waters of the St. Lawrence River, while a spokesperson for Environment Canada referred to the spill as “a major heavy fuel spill” in an email to The Telegram.

Response to environmental emergencies in Quebec falls into one of three categories and the spill at Sept-Îles has been set at a Category 2. That is a case — according to a translation of information provided on the provincial government’s website — wherein the event involves hazardous materials that may have a significant impact on the environment, the consequences are difficult to identify, or response to the event is complex.

According to an email response to questions from Environment Canada, the federal agency has supported the response and: provided local weather forecasts for the bay at Sept-Îles, assisted in spill dispersal modelling and provided direction on the handling of birds.

“At this point, Environment Canada has not determined whether enforcement measures will be necessary. We continue to monitor the situation along with the other stakeholders,” stated a response to questions.

There was no response to a call Thursday to a representative for Cliffs Natural Resources in Eastern Canada for further information as of press time.