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UPDATE: Efforts to save Sandy Pond intensify after Fish Lake win

Atlantic organizer Anglea Giles and St. John's chapter activist Ken Kavanagh toast the Fish Lake win yesterday.

Atlantic organizer Anglea Giles and St. John’s chapter activist Ken Kavanagh toast the Fish Lake win yesterday.

The Council of Canadians is celebrating the terrific win yesterday that stopped the proposed destruction of Fish Lake by Taseko’s Prosperity mine project. We are now refocusing our attention on Sandy Pond in Newfoundland, another lake that has been classified as a ‘tailings impoundment area’ under the same Schedule 2 loophole that threatened Fish Lake.

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.

Unlike Fish Lake, the federal government has already approved the destruction of Sandy Pond.

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 July 10, Russell Wangersky wrote in The Western Star that, “Now, environmentally, using ponds for dumpsites should be a non-starter. The federal Fisheries Act proscribes charges for dumping ‘deleterious substances’ into fresh water, and killing close to 100 football fields of pond with acidic slop probably counts as dumping a deleterious substances. …Using Sandy Pond as a tailings pond was estimated to cost $62 million; a man-made containment area would have cost $490 million. …The additional $428 million would have been money invested here in the creation of a purpose-built, impermeable holding area specifically designed to hold acid-generating waste – as opposed to dumping it in an area that was designed not to hold waste, but to hold fish. Maybe, with the extra $428 million, the increased price tag for the whole project would have been too high, and the project would not have been viable.”

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.”

More on our campaign to protect Sandy Pond, please go to http://canadians.org/water/issues/TIAs/sandy-pond.html.