Court Victory Forces Canada to Report Pollution Data for Mines

Media release from Ecojustice:

April 24, 2009 — Great Lakes United, Mining Watch Canada and Ecojustice are hailing a
landmark decision from the Federal Court of Canada released late
yesterday that will force the federal government to stop withholding
data on one of Canada’s largest sources of pollution – millions of
tonnes of toxic mine tailings and waste rock from mining operations
throughout the country.

The Federal Court sided with the groups and issued an Order
demanding that the federal government immediately begin publicly
reporting mining pollution data from 2006 onward to the National
Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI)
. The strongly worded decision
describes the government’s pace as “glacial” and chastises the
government for turning a “blind eye” to the issue and dragging its feet
for “more than 16 years”.

“This is a huge decision for environmental justice in Canada,” said
Ecojustice lawyer Justin Duncan. Fellow lawyer Marlene Cashin added,
“The court has unequivocally upheld the right of Canadians to know when
the health of their communities and the environment is under threat
from one of the country’s largest sources of toxic pollution.”

The lawsuit was filed in Federal Court in 2007 on behalf of
MiningWatch Canada and Great Lakes United by Ecojustice (formerly
Sierra Legal Defence Fund). The lawsuit alleged that the Minister of
Environment broke the law when he failed to collect and report this
pollution information from mines in Canada under the NPRI.

“This is a victory that should be celebrated from Smithers to Voisey’s Bay,” said MiningWatch Canada spokesman Jamie Kneen. “The
public has a right to know what kind of toxic liabilities are being
created every day. It’s always been bizarre to us that the mining
industry should not face the same reporting requirements as every other
industrial sector, and we’re pleased that the Court agreed with us.”

In stark contrast, since 1998, the U.S. government has required
mining companies to report all pollutants under the American equivalent
of the NPRI, the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). In 2005, the 72 mines
reporting to the TRI released more than 500 million kilograms of mine
tailings and waste rock – accounting for 27% of all U.S. pollutants
reported. With yesterday’s court decision, pollution data from Canada’s
80 metal mining facilities will now similarly have to be reported under
the NPRI.

“Canadians living in places like Sudbury, with mining operations in
their backyards, were blindfolded while millions of kilograms of
carcinogens and heavy metals accumulated in tailings ponds and waste
rock piles across the country,” said John Jackson of Great Lakes
United. “With this decision, the blindfold comes off and citizens can
truly hold these companies to account for their pollution and the
environmental and health dangers they pose.”

For further information please download a copy of the decision or contact:

Justin Duncan, Ecoustice (416) 573-4258 (cell)
Marlene Cashin, Ecojustice (416) 368-7533 ext. 31
John Jackson, Great Lakes United, (519) 744-7503
Jamie Kneen, MiningWatch Canada (613) 761-2273 (cell)

###

A copy of the Canadian Federal Court decision for the National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) lawsuit can be found at:

http://www.ecojustice.ca/media-centre/media-release-files/decision_NPRI_apr2009.pdf

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