Sudbury

Environmental charges against DeBeers mine near Attawapiskat go to trial, following appeal

The battle over mercury testing at the DeBeers diamond mine near Attawapiskat will continue to be fought in the courts, beginning Thursday in Timmins.  

DeBeers has consistently denied the allegations

DeBeers has gathered wild seeds from the James Bay Coast and is starting to use them to re-green the tailings area surrounding the Victor Mine. (Erik White/CBC)

The battle over mercury testing at the DeBeers diamond mine near Attawapiskat will continue to be fought in the courts, beginning Thursday in Timmins.  

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

But when it took more than 18 months to get the case to trial, as required by the Jordan principle set by the Supreme Court, the charges were tossed out by a court in 2018.

Ecojustice appealed that ruling in June 2019, and last month, Justice D.A. Thomas said the case should continue.

"The defendant DeBeers had every opportunity to express its concerns about delay throughout the process, and yet over the course of 22 months, remained silent regarding delay. lndeed, to the contrary, the defendant appears to have resisted any and all efforts to expedite the proceedings, including the setting of trial dates, until some four months after the Jordan ceiling had been breached," the judge's ruling reads.

"The Court has made it abundantly clear, that all players must assume responsibility for avoiding unnecessary delay— if there is to be a meaningful shift in the culture of complacency required to ensure a more efficient criminal justice system."

The case is back in Timmins court Thursday, the first step in scheduling a trial where the charges will be tested.

DeBeers Canada has consistently denied that it broke the law. 

Ecojustice says even though Victor mine is no longer running, this case could set a precedent for the environmental standards followed by mining companies in the future, including those working in the Ring of Fire. 

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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