Canadian Consulting Engineer

Mining industry and environmentalists at odds over reporting requirements

November 12, 2007
By Canadian Consulting Engineer

Environmental groups have brought a lawsuit against Canada's Minister of the Environment over how the mining indust...

Environmental groups have brought a lawsuit against Canada’s Minister of the Environment over how the mining industry reports to the National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI).
The lawsuit launched on November 7 is an application for judicial review filed in the Federal court. It was brought by Ecojustice on behalf of Mining Watch Canada and Great Lakes United. The lawsuit alleges that the Minister is not conforming to the law because he is not requiring mining companies to report the pollutants they release to tailing ponds and waste rock.
The Mining Association of Canada objects to the implications of the lawsuit. It responded with a press release the next day saying that it was “proud of its open and transparent reporting of environmental and social information.”
In fact, the Mining Association’s report, Towards Sustainable Mining Progress Report of 2006, includes a section called “Total Releases by Company and Substance,” in which 26 companies report their releases of arsenic, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, copper, cyanides, hydrogen sulphide, lead, mercury, nickel, silver and zinc. The tables also show the change in the company’s release compared to a base year, usually 1988.
However, a workshop organized by Environment Canada this June involved the mining industry and other stakeholders such as native groups to examine the issue of how substances sent to tailings ponds and waste rock could be better reported.
According to a paper on Environment Canada’s website, that workshop found that there was a need for more consistent and transparent reporting: “although (mostly hard copy) records are kept within mining and environmental agencies, management of data is inconsistent, resources are inadequate, and public accessibility is sporadic.” (Mining Sector Sustainability Table, June 5, 2007). The workshop went on to agree that there was “significant agreement on [the] importance of improving accessibility of broader information through interjurisdictional collaboration.” They wanted Environment Canada to decide within six months of the workshop what kinds of “core set” information should be reported on a mandatory level across Canada. However, the participants in the workshop could not agree that the National Pollutant Release Inventory was the right vehicle.
If the Environment Minister does decide to tighten the reporting rules for mining companies it could mean business for Canadian engineering companies, who might be asked to help in the reporting process.
MiningWatch Canada points out that the U.S. government requires mining companies to report the amounts of pollutants they generate in their operations. It says that in 2005, the amount released by mining industry made up 27% of all pollutants reported across the country.


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