De Beers pleads guilty to failing to report mercury monitoring data near northern Ontario mine

De Beers Canada Inc. pleaded guilty to one count of failing to provide mercury monitoring data relating to the operation of its open pit diamond mine, located upstream from the Attawapiskat First Nation. The Victor Diamond Mine ceased operations in 2019.

De Beers says guilty plea in connection to mercury report from G2 station in 2014.

The De Beers Victor Diamond Mine in northern Ontario ceased operations in 2018. Despite that, the Ontario government requires the company to self-monitor and report on mercury and methylmercury levels found in creeks near the open-pit mine. (Wildlands League)

De Beers Canada Inc. pleaded guilty to one count of failing to provide mercury monitoring data relating to the operation of its open pit Victor diamond mine, located upstream from the Attawapiskat First Nation in 2014.

The Victor Diamond Mine ceased operations in 2019.

The guilty plea came last week in the Ontario Court of Justice in Timmins.

In a statement emailed to CBC News, De Beers says it was never charged with failing to take samples, monitoring or for polluting the environment

De Beers says  mercury was never used during operations at the Victor Diamond Mine, adding it is naturally occurring throughout the James Bay lowlands.

"All sampling results for mercury have complied with the mine's Certificate of Approval, and all annual mercury monitoring reports for Victor mine are publicly available on De Beers Canada's website," the statement said.

The company says its guilty plea was in connection to results for its G2 station at the mine in 2014. The G2 station is located between two other stations. Mercury sampling from these two were included, but G2 was not.

Although DeBeers says this would not have changed the outcome of the monitoring analysis, the company acknowledges that this information should have been reported in line with the condition.

It added the mercury monitoring program for Victor mine is more rigorous than that of any other mine in Ontario. 

Prosecution filed by Ecojustice

The plea is the conclusion to a private prosecution that was launched by environmental group Ecojustice in Dec. 2015 in partnership with former prosecutor David Wright, and was based on information collected by Wildlands League.

They say it showed De Beers failed to report mercury and methylmercury levels in the water system around the mine, for seven years.

Elevated levels in a waterway can be dangerous to human health, as well as aquatic life.

Ecojustice says their evidence showed that the project pumped water from the open pit into the Granny Creek water system which flows into the Attawapiskat River. They say that caused elevated mercury levels in the water and the fish populations.

"This private prosecution was necessary because Ontario's reliance on self-reporting by mining companies does not work. Too often, this gives mining companies the opportunity to pollute with impunity, as was the case with De Beers at its Victor Mine," he added," said Zachary Biech, a lawyer for Ecojustice.

Despite the mine not operating, De Beers' provincial permit requires the company to continue monitoring mercury.

De Beers has agreed to post publicly on its website all past and future annual mercury monitoring reports. The company also agreed to pay a $100 fine and make a $50,000 donation to an agreed upon charity.


  • A previous version of this story stated that De Beers Canada agreed to make a $50,000 donation to the Nature Conservancy of Canada. In fact, it is to an agreed upon charity. Ecojustice says there was a miscommunication which led to the error.
    Jul 07, 2021 10:04 AM ET


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