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NEWS: Facebook group formed to protect Bamoos Lake

Photo courtesy of Michael Butler

Bamoos Lake. Photo courtesy of Michael Butler.

The Lake Superior News and the Thunder Bay Chronicle Journal recently reported on Bamoos Lake – a lake in Ontario that faces destruction through the Schedule 2 exemption of the Fisheries Act. This exemption allows mining companies to dump their mining tailings (toxic waste) into freshwater lakes.

We first reported on Bamoos Lake on April 14 in this campaign blog, http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=3292.

The Lake Superior News reported on May 14 that, “The proposal by Marathon PGM Corporation to dump tailings directly into Bamoos Lake represents a first for Ontario and for the entire Great Lakes Basin.”

They note that, “The proposed platinum, palladium and copper open pit mine is huge. At approximately 1000 hectares, its footprint is roughly the size of the Town of Marathon. Marathon PGM Corporation projects that approximately 68,612 tonnes of mine rock will be produced daily over 11.4 years for a total of 288 million tonnes. Annual tailings production is projected to be 5.3 million cubic metres.”

“Marathon PGM Corporation has proposed only two alternatives for managing, in perpetuity, the enormous quantity of tailings generated over the proposed life of the mine. One of these alternatives, the South Option, involves the loss of 44 ponds and 30 streams. One of the estimated twelve dams required for this option would be approximately 89 meters high – the height of a 27 story building – and half a kilometre wide.”

“The other proposed option for tailings management, the North Option, involves dumping the tailings directly into Bamoos Lake, destroying all life in this 10,000 year old lake. Presently, Bamoos Lake’s 48 million cubic metres of cold water habitat support highly productive, native, naturally reproducing stocks of lake trout, brook trout and other fishes. Local aboriginal people and other citizens of the area have enjoyed this healthy, safe source of food for generations. Less than than one percent of all lakes in Ontario host Lake Trout.”

The Stand for the Land website notes that, “In March of 2010 the Marathon PGM Corporation presented to the community of Marathon a description of a massive open pit mine project a few km north of the town. The corporation has proposed only two alternatives for managing, in perpetuity, the enormous quantity of toxic tailings generated over the proposed 11 year life of the mine. One of these alternatives, the North Option, involves dumping the tailings directly into Bamoos Lake, destroying all life in this 10,000 year old lake. Recent fisheries assessments confirmed what anglers from Marathon and the Pic River First Nation have known for generations – Bamoos Lake hosts a highly productive, naturally reproducing cold water fishery. The Marathon PGM Corporation hasn’t yet presented a plan for how they will compensate for the destruction 48 million cubic metres of fish habitat and the extirpation of ancient, locally adapted fish stocks.”

The Thunder Bay Chronicle Journal reported on May 23 that, “The PGM operation will mine copper, palladium, platinum and gold. More than 40 per cent of the mine‘s revenue will come from copper production. The company is in the process of applying for necessary federal and provincial permits, as well as financing. (PGM president Phil) Walford said the company plans to have its Marathon mine in production by 2013.”

PGM president Phil Walford also makes some interesting claims in this article:

– “Dumping waste rock from a proposed copper and precious metals mine directly into a Marathon-area lake wouldn‘t destroy the lake, but it would wipe out the existing lake trout fishery, the proponent acknowledges. ‘It wouldn‘t kill he lake – God no,’ Marathon PGM president Phil Walford said in an interview. ‘But it would change it from a cold water fishery to a warm water one, which means you‘d have walleye instead of lake trout.’”

– “Putting the mine‘s waste into Bamoos Lake would not significantly reduce the overall cost of the operation, Walford added. ‘In the grand scheme of things, there wouldn‘t be a huge amount of savings,’ he said. …Putting about 10 years of spent rock, or tailings, into Bamoos Lake isn‘t the only option the company is considering for its mining waste. It could also create a tailings pond on existing land around the proposed mining site, just north of Highway 17 and Marathon‘s airport.”

The Lake Superior News highlights that, “The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) has three levels of rigour for reviewing projects. In its submission to the CEAA, Marathon PGM Corporation requested an intermediate level of environmental assessment.”

“‘Citizens for a Responsible Mine” (CRM) is a group of people centered in Marathon, Ontario who would like to support Marathon PGM Corporation in its efforts to develop and operate a clean, responsible mine. These people welcome the PGM mine into their community AND seek a rigorous environmental assessment of the project in an effort to achieve a mine that benefits the community and respects the natural environment.”

“Given the size of the project and the scope of its potential impacts on human heath, the environment and the long-term economic well-being of the region, Citizens for a Responsible Mine is petitioning for a more rigorous ‘Panel Review’ that would allow groups from the public to have recognized status in the proceedings and would allow for input from technical experts from outside of government.”

“At the time of writing, there were over 160 members of CRM, many from the nearby Pic River First Nation. The group would like as many people as possible from Marathon, Pic River and the rest of Canada to join the Facebook group and contact the CEAA to press for a thorough panel review of the project. For more information about the citizen group visit http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/group.php?gid=105713186140264.”

The Council of Canadians argues that the Schedule 2 exemption should be scrapped. To date, we have been working specifically on the struggles at Teztan Biny (Fish Lake), British Columbia and Sandy Pond, Newfoundland.

In the coming weeks an announcement will be made about a legal challenge we are supporting that seeks to protect lakes across Canada from a Schedule 2 exemption.

In reference to Bamoos Lake, we note that the federal Member of Parliament for the riding is Bruce Hyer (the NDP’s deputy environment critic for water) and the area’s Member of the Provincial Parliament is Michael Gravelle (the provincial Liberal government’s minister of northern development and mines). We look forward to their comments and actions to save Bamoos Lake.

We are also very concerned that the federal government has gutted the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. More on that at http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=201.

The Lake Superior News article, http://lakesuperiornews.com/Environment/BamoosLakeMine.aspx.

The Thunder Bay Chronicle Journal report, http://www.chroniclejournal.com/stories_local.php?id=265836.

The Stand for the Land website – which “focuses on news relating to public land issues, treaty rights, and related citizen activism in the Upper Great Lakes Region” – is at http://standfortheland.com/2010/05/12/lake-superior-bamoos-in-danger-from-mining/.

The Marathon PGM description of the project is at http://www.marathonpgm.com/marathon.htm.

More on the Council of Canadians campaign against the loss of lakes – including Fish Lake and Sandy Pond – to Schedule 2, http://canadians.org/TIA.

Our new fact sheet on Schedule 2, http://canadians.org/water/documents/TIA/schedule2-0510.pdf.

To contact Citizens for a Responsible Mine, citizensforaresponsiblemine@gmail.com.