An environmentalist says Ottawa has set a poor precedent by amending a regulation under the Fisheries and Oceans Actfor a mining project incentral Newfoundland.
Final environmental approval was given last week to Aur Resources, allowing it to dump effluentfrom its Duck Pond copper and zinc mine into other nearby ponds.
Aur cleared a major hurdle this spring, when federal regulatory approval was given to Trout Pond, as well as a pond ofa tributary to Gill's Pond Brook.
Chad Griffiths, an activist with the Trout Pond Action Group, said the final decision sets a dangerous precedent that could have national implications.
"The chief of mines and minerals of Environment Canada has actually released a list of projects which plan on using this same amendment to pollute ponds for their tailings impoundment, and these include projects in British Columbia, Nunavut, Saskatchewan and North West Territories," Griffiths said.
Kevin Power, head of pollution prevention with Environment Canada's office in Newfoundland and Labrador, said the amendment applies only to the Duck Pond mine.
"I understand the controversy associated with this, but ultimately, you know, our department believes in the case of Aur Resources that the right decision was selected, based on a analysis of all the various risks to the environment," Power said.
NDP requesting Trout Pond investigation
Provincial New Democratic Party Leader Lorraine Michael, meanwhile, wants the Newfoundland and Labrador government to launch an independent investigation into Trout Pond, and to withhold approval of a mining permit for Aur Resources.
"I am concerned that the provincial government may release Aur Resource's permit without having further investigation," Michael said Wednesday in a statement.
Sheechoed environmentalists' concerns that the Duck Pond project will harm the Exploits River system, the largest river system on the island.
However, the Newfoundland and Labrador Chamber of Mineral Resources said Aur Resources went through a rigorous environmental assessment before the amendment was approved, and that other mining companies will have to do the same.
Aur Resources said the Duck Pond project could sustain mining of about 1,500 tonnes per day, over an eight-year period. The site is estimated to contain 14.5 million kilograms of copper and 24 million kilograms of zinc.