Mine blamed for health problems

Some residents of the northwestern Manitoba town of Lynn Lake say they are worried waste from a nearby abandoned mine may be causing cancer.

The Sherritt-Gordon mine closed in the 1970s, before regulations were put in place to ensure the safety of waste in tailing ponds. The tailings pond is less than a kilometre from the town, and contains 22 million tonnes of waste from a variety of metal ores. The dust from the dried-up tailings pond blows over the town when there are high winds.

Lynn Lake Mayor Andie Dulewich says there have been requests for an independent health risk assessment and an environmental risk assessment for his community. He says another group has requested a cancer cluster study also be done.

"There is one particular area within the community where pretty well every household within a couple block area has had some sort of cancer case or stomach disorder," Dulewich said. "Somebody out of pretty well every house."

The chief of the Marcel Colomb First Nation, which is located in Lynn Lake, says he blames the tailings dust for respiratory problems among members of the band. Andrew Colomb says 15 to 20 per cent of band members have respiratory problems, and in the last 15 years, six members have died from asthma and lung disease.

"It makes me wonder if people or the governments don't care about our health in the north," said Colomb.

Cancer rate not higher: medical officer

Albert DeVilliers, the Burntwood region's medical officer of health, says a preliminary investigation by Manitoba Health has not revealed a greater incidence of cancer in Lynn Lake than in the rest of the province

A Manitoba Health document indicates the connection between illness in the community and the tailings pond is unlikely. The conclusion is based in part on a 1992 sampling, which found amounts of heavy metals in the tailings did not exceed recommended standards.

The document did point out more studies are needed to do a proper health risk assessment.

The province is expected to announce measures to find out if the mine presents a health hazard on Wednesday