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NEWS: Vale appeals ‘non-natural’ use of land ruling in Toronto court

The Globe and Mail reports, “Lawyers for Vale SA head into a Toronto courtroom on Monday to appeal a groundbreaking class-action ruling that ordered the company to pay homeowners in Port Colborne, Ont., $36-million in compensation for decades of pollution from an Inco nickel refinery. …The company disputes (Ontario Superior Court) Judge Joseph Henderson’s use of an 1868 decision by Britain’s House of Lords called Rylands v. Fletcher to find Inco liable for the nickel residue that ended up in the soil of many of the town’s gardens and backyards. In the Rylands case, a landowner was found liable after a water reservoir, deemed a ‘non-natural’ use of land, flooded a neighbour’s mine. Vale argues that legally operating a nickel refinery should be considered a ‘natural’ activity.”

The Council of Canadians, as a member of the Sandy Pond Alliance, is involved in another court challenge involving Vale, one that involves taking a freshwater lake and redefining it as a tailings impoundment area – arguably a non-natural use of water. The Brazilian company started constructing a nickel processing plant at Long Harbour in Newfoundland in April 2009. The $2.2 billion plant – to be completed in 2013 – will process nickel from the company’s operations in Voisey’s Bay and dump approximately 400,000 tonnes of tailings annually into Sandy Pond, a 30-hectare freshwater lake. Our Federal Court challenge, launched in June 2010, is against the Schedule 2 provision that allows this to happen.

In early-March 2011, the St. John’s Telegram reported, “Vale is appealing a decision that gave it limited intervener status in the federal court case to save Sandy Pond…” Vale is seeking full intervener status. “Vale’s lawyers are (also) pushing to have the case heard in Ontario…”

What kind of company is Vale? In late-February, the Winnipeg Free Press reported, “Award-winning filmmaker Michael Moore is going to bat for Thompson, speaking out against the foreign-owned mining giant Vale that’s decided to close the northern Manitoba city’s main employer, its smelter and refinery. …Despite promises to increase employment, Vale announced the closure of the smelter and refinery, eliminating all the value-added mining jobs in Thompson by 2015…” Past campaign blog have also noted that Vale lobbied for the defeat of C-300, a bill aimed at curbing mining company abuses abroad, http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=5095. And that in Sudbury, Ontario they sought to end the defined pension plan for the workers, http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=3172, and that there was a strike in Voisey’s Bay, Labrador against them too, http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=5874.

You can read more about the court case involving Port Colborne in this July 2010 Dominion article, http://www.dominionpaper.ca/articles/3545.

More on our campaign to defend Sandy Pond – and other lakes across the country threatened by Schedule 2 – can be found at www.canadians.org/schedule2.