Newfoundland and Labrador should force Vale Inco to find another way to deal with waste from a proposed nickel processing plant on the province's south coast, the Sierra Club of Canada says.
Bruno Marcocchio, spokesman for the Atlantic chapter of the Sierra Club, criticized the provincial government Monday, after it accepted an environmental impact statement from Vale Inco, the company that's planning to construct the plant in Long Harbour, Placentia Bay.
On Friday, Environment Minister Charlene Johnson released public notice that the environmental impact statement, or EIS, had been accepted by her department — an incremental step towards final approval of the project.
The environmental plan for the hydromet plant, which will process nickel mined at Voisey's Bay in Labrador, outlines how the company will deal with tailings from the nickel refining process. The tailings will be dumped at nearby Sandy Pond, a freshwater pond, with precautions in place to ensure the waste remains contained.
Marcocchio, told CBC News Monday that Vale Inco should not be allowed to continue with its plans to dump tailings in the pond, saying if the dumping is allowed to happen as outlined, it may set a national environmental precedent.
"The question has to be, why is the government of Newfoundland permitting natural water bodies to be destroyed and used as settling ponds, for the convenience of mining companies to inexpensively dump up to 19 million tonnes of tailings into Sandy Pond?" Marcocchio said.
Marcocchio said, given that the nickel find at Voisey's Bay is one of the richest nickel deposits in the world, the provincial government should have the leeway to force Vale Inco to find a better system for handling the hydromet plant waste.
In the EIS document, which is almost 1,000 pages, Vale Inco outlines any foreseeable impact each phase of the project may have on the environment. The paper outlines anticipated accidents, such as tanker spills and chemical leaks.
Vale Inco said it will have a high level of emergency preparedness in place, in case of an environmental accident.
The project is still being reviewed by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans.