Dumping mine waste in Sandy Pond senseless: NDP
Last Updated: Thursday, July 24, 2008 | 5:24 PM NT
The New Democratic Party is fighting a federal government decision to allow the dumping of toxic waste in an eastern Newfoundland freshwater pond.
Vale Inco wants to bury about 400,000 tonnes of waste annually in Sandy Pond, as part of a $2-billion proposal to process nickel at Long Harbour, Placentia Bay.
The nickel is being mined in Labrador at Voisey's Bay.
Peter Stoffer, the NDP's fisheries critic, said he cannot believe that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is backing Vale Inco's plan, which will effectively destroy Sandy Pond's ability to sustain fish.
At a news conference in St. John's Wednesday, Stoffer said companies should not be allowed to use waterways for disposing of waste.
"We're not saying no to mining. We're just making sure that they're not destroying the healthy aquatic systems while they go ahead and do their business," said Stoffer.
"You can do both. They do it in the States, they do it in Australia, they do it in Europe — why can't you do it in Canada?"
Stoffer favours putting the waste in above-ground containers.
Sandy Pond best option: Vale Inco
However, Bob Carter, a public affairs official with Vale Inco in St. John's, said that choice would create even more environmental damage.
"The environmental footprint for a man-made containment is significantly larger than the environmental footprint for Sandy Pond," said Carter.
Vale Inco also argues that it must put the waste under water so that sulphur does not come into contact with oxygen.
Carter said creating an above-ground containment system would spoil more than 100 hectares of land. Sandy Pond is just 35 hectares.
Federal Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn said in a statement issued Wednesday that proposals to dispose of waste in ponds are approved only if there is "no net loss" to fish habitat.
"When it comes to ensuring the safety of Canadians, natural impoundment areas such as ponds are sometimes the safest option for storing mining waste," said the statement.
Hearn's statement spoke of the economic importance of mining to small communities.
"If Peter Stoffer is more concerned about taking political potshots from the sidelines than he is about the livelihoods of rural Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, that's his issue," the statement said. "We'll continue to work hard to give Canadians the options they need to build futures for their families."
Provinc ial Environment Minister Charlene Johnson was not available for comment.
In June, Johnson's department accepted an environmental impact statement submitted by Vale Inco. Johnson is expected to present the issue to cabinet in August.
Diana Baird, who speaks for the Atlantic Canada Coastal Action Program's Northeast Avalon chapter, said lakes and ponds should not be allowed as dump sites.
"Using a natural, healthy aquatic water system to dump toxic waste … would cause irreparable damage," she said.
"I think there has to be a better way, and we have to raise our voices and make sure that our politicians are listening to that."
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