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NEWS: Vale granted intervener status in Sandy Pond federal court challenge

Angela Giles at Sandy Pond

Angela Giles at Sandy Pond

The St. John’s Telegram reports today that, “Vale Ltd., the Mining Association of Canada and the Mining Association of British Columbia have been granted intervener status in the fight to save Sandy Pond. The Sandy Pond Alliance to Protect Canadian Waters Inc. launched a federal court challenge in June, seeking the removal of metal mining effluent regulations from the Federal Fisheries Act.”

Vale 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. The Brazilian mining company has contracted the Texas-based company Fluor to manage the engineering and construction of this plant.

The Council of Canadians is a member of the Sandy Pond Alliance and is committed to winning this legal fight.

The Telegram article adds that, “Earlier this month, the court granted intervener status to the nickel mining company and the two associations. However, the court limited the interveners on what evidence they can present and said they can’t cross-examine witnesses who have filed affidavits for the applicant and government unless both agree.”

On May 8, 2009, the St. John’s Telegram reported that, “Members of the Council of Canadians and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) are boiling over at the thought of Sandy Pond becoming a waste deposit site for Vale Inco. …Meera Karunananthan, the national water campaigner with the council, said the use of lakes as dump sites ’shouldn’t even be an option.’ She said it was ‘outrageous’ for Vale Inco, which is developing a nickel processing plant in nearby Long Harbour, to use the natural pond as a ready- made trash bin. ‘We need to put an end to this practice,’ she said. ‘Canada is the only industrialized country to allow our lakes to be used as tailings ponds.’”

On March 22, 2010, a Council of Canadians media release stated, “At a press conference this morning the newly formed Sandy Pond Alliance to Protect Canadian Waters is announcing its intention to launch a legal challenge against a loophole in the Fisheries Act that is allowing Vale Inco to use Sandy Pond, a lake near Long Harbour, as a dumpsite for toxic waste generated by their operations. Members of the Sandy Pond Alliance include Natural History Society of Newfoundland and Labrador, Mining Watch Canada, The Council of Canadians, Sierra Club of Canada and a growing number of residents of the province who are concerned with the immanent destruction of Sandy Pond.”

On June 4, a legal challenge was launched against Schedule 2 of the Fisheries Act. The groups supporting the challenge include the Sandy Pond Alliance, the Council of Canadians, MiningWatch Canada, Sierra Club Atlantic, and others. The Vancouver Sun reported that, “The organization will launch a legal challenge today seeking to overturn Schedule 2, an amendment to the Fisheries Act that allows mining companies to dump toxic waste in lakes and rivers by reclassifying them as tailings impoundment areas.”

On September 11, the Toronto Star reported on its front-page that, “‘Sandy Pond is a wonderful, beautiful lake and all aquatic life is going to be annihilated,’ said Meera Karunananthan, national water campaigner for the Council of Canadians and a member of the newly-created Sandy Pond Alliance. ‘The authorities are allowing the company to use our pristine water as one big garbage dump.’ …Newfoundland activist Ken Kavanagh said the Sandy Pond Alliance sent out a recent newsletter to ‘make it clear we’re not against economic development or against jobs. We’re against one aspect of the development that will destroy the lake.’ He argues the company chose to dump waste in Sandy Pond over such options as an artificial, lined containment pond, because it’s cheaper.”

For more on the campaign to save Sandy Pond, please go to http://canadians.org/water/issues/TIAs/sandy-pond.html.

More on this soon.