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NEWS: Harper defends dumping mine tailings into freshwater lakes

Postmedia News reports this morning that, “Prime Minister Stephen Harper (has) defended a government decision to allow a local gold mine to dump its waste into nearby fish habitat. …The (Meadowbank gold mine) project (near Baker Lake and Rankin Inlet in Nunavut) received a break from Environment Canada, which agreed to designate fish habitat in a nearby lake as a dumping zone for tailings waste. …Harper noted that all projects go through a detailed and expensive environmental-review process.”

Harper said, “Obviously, when you dig holes here you create some environmental issues and those have to be addressed, but that can’t stop development, any more than we would let that stop development in Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver …The people here care about the environment. They’re partners in the environment, but they have as much right to development and opportunity as people in any other part of the country. …Are there effects of development on the environment? Absolutely there are effects. We seek to minimize those effects. We seek to remediate those effects and we work closely with local communities and particularly with aboriginal groups in parts of the country like this to ensure that we minimize our impact.”

The article continues, “‘There was no reason to destroy this fish habitat other than cost,’ said Catherine Coumans, an Ottawa-based research co-ordinator for MiningWatch Canada, an advocacy group. ‘It is cheaper to dump tailings into natural water bodies than build an on-land impoundment.’ (But) Jean Robitaille, a senior vice president for technical services (with Agnico-Eagle Mines), explained that the solution minimizes environmental effects of creating a tailings impoundment area on the site, noting that the company is also required to mitigate the effects of its activity and create new habitat for about 3,000 fish in the affected portion of the lake. …Stéphane Robert, the company’s environment intendent, said the company is spending $25 million to create new fish habitats in the project, monitoring the effect on such animal species as caribou, birds, wolverines and foxes, and has set aside $48 million to seal the tailings area with four metres of rocks at the end of the project to ensure that the waste remains frozen and buried.”

While the lake would be permanently destroyed, the mine is expected to operate until just 2019.
The Postmedia News article is at

For information on the Council of Canadians campaign against this dumping of mining waste into freshwater lakes, please go to our ‘Schedule 2’ page at We have focused on defending Fish Lake in British Columbia, Sandy Pond in Newfoundland, and a Marathon-area waterway in Ontario.