Sudbury

Allegations that DeBeers broke environmental laws at Attawapiskat mine back in court

Mining giant DeBeers is fighting an environmental group in a Timmins courtroom Tuesday over mercury testing at its mine near Attawpiskat.

Charges were tossed out last year when it took longer than 18 months to get to trial

The environmental group Ecojustice is trying to bring charges against DeBeers for allegedly failing to report mercury test results from its diamond mining operations near Attawapiskat. (Erik White/CBC)

The battle over mercury testing at the DeBeers diamond mine near Attawapiskat returned to a courtroom on Tuesday.

Environmental group Ecojustice first alleged the mining company broke the law by not properly reporting test results back in 2016.

It filed what is called a private prosecution, which saw charges laid under provincial environmental laws when the Ontario government chose not to.

But when it took more than 18 months to get the case to trial, which the Supreme Court enshrined as a constitutional right in the Jordan decision, the charges were tossed out by a court last year.

Ecojustice is appealing that decision in a Timmins court Tuesday, arguing that the Jordan decision allows for certain reasonable delays in getting charges tested at trial.

Lawyer Julia Croome says even though the Victor mine is no longer running, this case has far reaching implications, especially with more mining activity expected in Ontario's far north in the coming years.

"DeBeers like many other mining and resource extraction companies are responsible for monitoring themselves and so we need to ensure that that's happening and that they're providing the data to the regulator. And that's why this case is really important," she said outside court on Tuesday.

Croome acknowledges that this a "last ditch" effort to save this case, but think it's important these allegations be explored in an open trial.  

"Reporting is quite important. This is the early warning system. And we need that to work well in order for the regulator, the government, to step in when it needs to step in. If they don't know that something's going wrong because they don't have the data, how do they know to step in?" she says. 

DeBeers could not be reached for comment, but in the past the company has denied the allegations.

About the Author

Erik White

journalist

Erik White is a CBC journalist based in Sudbury. He covers a wide range of stories about northern Ontario. Connect with him on Twitter @erikjwhite. Send story ideas to erik.white@cbc.ca

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