Sunday, May 21, 2006

Mining Company Wants to Poison Two Ponds in Central Newfoundland

This story only caught my attention a few days ago, when Anne Budgell on CBC Radio (scroll down for the May 18 link) interviewed two guests about the Duck Pond mine development. Her guests were Dr. John Gibson, a retired biologist, and Chad Griffiths of the Trout Pond Action Group. Their information about the Duck Pond Mine project was very disturbing. Aur Resources (pronounced 'Oar') intends to use two fish bearing ponds to dump their toxic waste there, thus, destroying a trout and salmon habitat, and permanently ruining the ponds and other water areas with the acid remnants from copper and zinc mining. These ponds are located in central Newfoundland, joined to the Exploits river, and close to Buchans. Dr. Gibson said that there will be toxic run out from zinc and copper, and the acid waste will poison more brooks, Harpoon & Trout Brook, and Gill's Pond Brook. Dr. Gibson adds that zinc and copper are highly lethal and that the ponds will be poisoned in perpetuity.

Mining watchdog, miningwatch.ca says, "Alternatives to using the lakes for tailings (toxic waste from mining) disposal were never properly evaluated, and the plan to compensate for the destruction is inadequate."

According to Dr. Gibson, under the Fisheries Act, no toxic waste can be deposited into a fish bearing habitat. He made a great point as he described his objection to how Aur Resources thinks it's cheaper to use a pond as a dump.
Because if you were obliged to make a lake the size of Quidi Vidi, stock it with unique fish community, birds, plants, fur bearing creatures, etc., it wouldn't be done. And yet they think it's cheaper.
Chad Griffiths added that an artificial impoundment alternative was not mentioned in the Environmental Impact statement.

What's equally upsetting is that this seems to be slipping through with the quiet approval of the Dept. of Fisheries & Oceans (DFO) and Environment Canada (EC). When such a project is undertaken a proper environmental assessment is required, and all alternatives to using new ponds, i.e., ponds that have not previously been used for dumping toxins, have to be explored. This is one of the problems. There is an alternative to using pristine bodies of water to hold mining waste.

Located near Val d'Or, Quebec, the Louvicourt Mine has been in operation since 1994. Aur Resources was a 30% owner as well as mine manager. The decision was made to not destroy natural water bodies for mine waste disposal, but to create manmade structures, and it was "overall a successful endeavour."

Right now it seems that the only reason Aur Resources want to use Duck Pond and Trout Pond is pure greed, that is, it is more cost efficient. Meanwhile, the prices for copper and zinc are at a higher rate now than when the Duck Pond proposal was first put forward. I have yet to hear of a reason why besides saving a few bucks for the company, that an artificial containment facility cannot be constructed.

Another problem mentioned by Mining Watch Canada, Dr. Gibson and Chad Griffiths, is that the fish capacity study, mandated by DFO for Aur Resources to conduct on Trout Pond, was not carried out correctly. For example, testing on fish habitat was supposed to be done over a period of time after the late summer when temperatures are high. However, Aur Resources did a study for 10 days during the summer. This flawed study (see p. 4) was also applied to another pond. So the methodology was wrong, and yet DFO and EC are allowing Aur Resources to move forward with thier plan to ruin ponds in Central Newfoundland.

Yet another suspicious ommision from Aur Resource's plan is that they provide no evidence that a bond has been posted adequate to cover costs of perpetual monitoring of ground and surface waters around the mine and perpetual maintenance of the dams that will keep the toxic mine waste from contaminating the Exploits River system. - Mining Watch Canada

The mine will only operate for 6.3 years, but the maintainance of the mine and waste disposal area will be permanent.

Mining Watch Canada (MWC) is a pan-Canadian initiative supported by environmental, social justice, Aboriginal and labour organisations from across the country. MWC is currently participating, as a member of The Canadian Environmental Network (CEN), in a multistakeholder review of the Metal Mining Effluent Regulations (MMER). A revised regulations came into force in 2002 - following a 12 year review process - with a new appendix, Schedule 2, that was added at the very end of the review process. Schedule 2 identifies tailings impoundment areas. By being placed on Schedule 2 a natural water body is redefined as a tailings impoundment area. The new Schedule 2 would allow new ponds and lakes to be used as toxic dumps. Aur Resources can set a dangerous precedent by getting permission to add Duck & Trout Ponds to the Schedule 2.

Chad Griffiths described this action as a "significant and substantial change in Canadian Environment Policy." He goes on to say that this
lays the limbo bar relatively low for any mining company in Canada to say 'there's a pond relatively close to our operation .. so why not here?' It's a dangerous precedent.
In 2002, CEN representatives in the review process were assured that Schedule 2 would serve to deal with 'historic' cases in which lakes had been used as tailings impoundment as these mines would otherwise find themselves out of compliance with the regulation. Environment Canada and DFO officials have approved the inclusion of these two ponds onto Schedule 2 of the revised regulations.

Aur Resources and Canadian regulating authorities (Environment Canada, DFO) are statutorily obligated to seek alternatives to the destruction of fresh water bodies for industrial purposes.

According to Mining Watch, Aur Resources, the NL Dept. of Environment & Conservation, and DFO, did not do all they could to explore alternatives to the destruction of two ponds for mine waste disposal.

How will the ponds be polluted?

AMD (Acid Mine Drainage) is the number one problem facing the mining industry in Canada. AMD occurs when sulphide-bearing minerals in rock are exposed to air and water, changing the sulphide to sulphuric acid. This acid dissolves heavy metals such as lead, zinc, copper, arsenic, cadminium, selenium and mercury into ground and surface water. Certain bacteria, naturally present, can significantly increase the rate of this reaction. - source: Mining Watch Canada

As alluded to earlier this is a dangerous and significant backward step in environmental protection and conservation. There are other mining companies already lining up to use the Schedule 2 to allow other pristine waters in different parts of Canada for toxic waste disposal (the Red Chris & Kemess North projects in BC, and the Wabush mine in Labrador). There will probably be more areas of Newfoundland & Labrador considered to be mining prospects. If the Duck Pond Mine precedent is set, then many other fish bearing ponds could be destroyed in the future. So is this really taking control of our resources, and not give aways? I don't think so. Our elected officials past and present should have demanded no less than the preservation of our land and water, and no further damage to new and previously untouched ponds and lakes.

It seemed like a bit of dark humour when Aur Resources used the innocent sounding Duck Pond Mine, to name their polluting mine. I would like to see people get work but not see Duck Pond's name changed to Dead Duck Pond in the near future.

We have a beautiful province and fresh water is one of the most valuable resources we have. As a citizen of this province I object to the way that this project is taking place. Jobs for people in the Buchans area are important, but Aur Resources can develop its mine but not to the detriment of our pristine environment. When they are gone in 7 years, they might be leaving behind a perpetual toxic mess for the people of our province to have to pay for and maintain. However, this does not have to be the case. They can use the alternative of a manmade containment structure to hold the waste, and at the same time, preserve our ponds, fish, wildlife, and provide people with employment. For my part I will write the NL Department of Environment, and contacts at Mining Watch Canada to add my protest to the way this mining project is being planned.

* Chad Griffiths (enviro@mun.ca) announced that there is a meeting on Wed., May 24, at the MUN University Centre, Rm. 2000.

Contacts

NL Dept. of Environment and Conservation
Minister Clyde Jackman, 729-2574
clydejackman@gov.nl.ca

Call the CBC Noon Line to voice your opinion on this, 576-5262. The toll free number is 1-866-576-5262 for long distance anywhere in North America.

Here are other contacts in case anyone is interested to send a message regarding this issue:

  • Patrick Finlay of Environment Canada, patrick.finlay@cc.gc.ca
  • Georgette Muller, PCO Policy Analyst, gmueller@pco-bcp.gc.ca
  • Joan Kuyek, Mining Watch Canada National Coordinator, joan@miningwatch.ca
  • Sarah Heiberg, Caucus Coordinator, Canadian Environmental Network, sarah@cen-rce.org
  • 25 comments:

    SkylarKD said...

    That's insane!! I thought we were well beyond dumping toxic waste in ponds in this day and age. Do they just hope that chemicals won't leach into the ground, and that all animals and people will stay away from the pond, lest they get sick/become contaminated too?

    Anonymous said...

    http://responsiblegovernmentleague.blogspot.com/2006/05/jack-doesnt-know-jack.html

    kodak said...

    I realize there is alot of skepticism on both sides of this issue on just how harmful this mining project may or may not be. I am still learning about this but in the meantime, I can't help but be suspicious about this whole undertaking. To go ahead with it and use a virgin pond to dump effluents seems to be taking the status quo approach. Some of the waste products may be recycled or put back down into a mine, but not all.

    I would prefer to see industries cut down as much as possible on toxins released into the environment. The manmade containment facility in Quebec sounds like an option. I would welcome comments as to why this is not a good option in the Duck Mine case.

    In our society business has a bottome line - to make money, that includes cutting expenses to make the profits larger. There seems to be plenty of substances in our world already. Alot of foods we consume have preservatives that keep them on the vegetable shelf for long periods of time. We as a society have become accustomed to consuming these without much question about what the chemicals are, that are used to preserve foods - in hams and other meats it is sodium nitrates, sodium phosphates. My point is that I do not want our society to continue accepting the status quo of accepting a certain level of toxins in our environment. I think this is not moving forward to a healthier population and environment.

    Consider what David Suzuki has to say about North American rivers and pollutants:
    "According to recent figures released by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the United States, one third of all lakes in the U.S. and a quarter of all rivers are contaminated with mercury or other pollutants to the point that people should not eat fish caught from them."

    http://www.davidsuzuki.org/about_us/Dr_David_Suzuki/Article_Archives/weekly09030401.asp

    NL-ExPatriate said...

    Great investigatie work Kodak Thanks.
    I too have been following this story, if only half heartedly.
    My first impression to using a natural pond as a dump site was absolutely not. I'm still inclined to think that but supposedly the Duck Pond mining project and associated proposed tailings dump site Trout pond is only a bog hole?
    I tried to find some pictures of Trout Pond but none came up in my searches.
    If what you say is true and Trout Pond is the size of Quidi Vidi has trout in it and water flow both in and out it would seem absolutely ludicrous to use a natural pond that flows out to other sources and has trout in it as an effluent disposal site.
    If the Effluent is so safe why not just dump it on the ground, because it looks bad and water hides things cheaply.
    Thanks for the contact info I'll try and do my part.

    kodak said...

    Thanks Ex-Pat. I am quoting Dr. Gibson when saying it is the size of Quidi Vidi. But whatever its size, some level of toxins will be deposited into it. If there is a better way to accomodate the environment, then why not pursue that? If there is uncertainty about potential short and long term harms, or how future fish capacity will be affected, or how Aur Resources conducted past environmental assessments, then perhaps it's best to delay any further development. For decades the state of Wisconsin had serious concerns about a zinc-copper mine that Exxon wanted to develop. At the 1996 Conservation Congress 95% voted in favor of the mining moratorium.
    http://www.wsn.org/miningpledgefacts.html
    More attention and information about this proposal is a good idea. The ore will still be in the ground in any case, and people will still be needed to mine it, whatever time it goes ahead.

    WJM said...

    What are the toxic wasters produced by Wabush Mines?

    Liam O'Brien said...

    This "action group" was started before anyone had even visited the glorified boghole known now as "trout pond." I've been there. I grew up near there. I've also studied the history of mining in the area and the researched the effects of tailings. This isn't the "toxic poison" that everyone is making it out to be. Provincial effluent regulations must be followed. Read the environmental impact Assessment completed by Jacques Whitford.

    Better yet, visit some of the Tailings ponds sporting healthy flora and fauna that were situated just a few thousand yards from my house in Buchans. Trout returned to them. Canada geese live on them part of the year. The tailings muds were largely re-vegitated and what remains is being recycled.

    The claims made by the so-called "watchdogs" (most of whom have never stepped anywhere near a modern tailings pond, mining operation, or even know the definition of words like 'gaunge' and 'tailings'), are mostly ludicrous and in no way match up to the tailings proposal included for the operation.

    This is mostly bunk. If the Trout Pond Action group was consistent in its logic, it would be advocating the shutdown of most towns and cities in this province -- most of which do far more damage to the environment than anything that Duck Pond mine could do if it lasted an eternity.

    NL-ExPatriate said...

    Thanks for the reality check Liam. I would hate to think I jump on every cause that comes my way without being informed. I'd be such a Hypocrit for criticizing Animal Rights Activists for doing exactly that.

    I tried looking up Trout pond using Google Earth but no luck. I did find a couple of candidates but there are to many to be sure without coordinates. It is supposed to be at Miller Town Junction isn't it?
    If anyone gets some pictures of Trout pond or grid references I'd appreciate it.

    NL-ExPatriate said...

    Might be interested in a lime doser to revitalize any salmon river affected by high acids content. Couldn't hurt to demand one for the sake oof the river and as a partial back up in case something does leach out into the river the lime dosage could be upped to help compensate. Couldn't hurt cheap really if it makes both sides see some common ground.

    kodak said...

    First of all Liam, it's good to hear that life is returning to a tailings pond near you. Unfortunately life had apparantly disappeared for some time. But I hope it's safe to drink, or eat the trout from there now.

    Regarding your comments about the watchdogs, if you are referring to Mining Watch Canada, this is all new to me, but my impression is that contrary to what you said, they are very qualified to comment on serious matters like the Schedule 2 Mining Regulations change, and any new mining development like Duck Pond. The Research Director is Dr. Catherine Coumans. From speaking with the Mining Watch office yesterday, I learned that she has 15 years experience dealing with mining issues and concerns like Duck Pond Mine development. I too, want to know that who I reference is credible. Their small staff are well read on mining matters, but also regularly consult with, get advice from, borrow and share information with other experts in fields such as fish biology and aquatics, geology, anthropology, etc., as well as similiar organizations in other countries.

    Their site provides very valuable links to mining stories in various parts of the world, and the environmental prices they paid for trusting companies like INCO or Falconbridge. Aur Resources was in fact involved in serious environmental and health problems in Chilie.

    Mining Watch is only one group of mining watchdogs. They share good company with such scholars as Dr. Joseph Rasmussen, University of Lethbridge, AB. Dr. Rasmussen holds a Canada Research Council Chair in Aquatic Ecosystems. This man has carried on studies on aquatic ecosystems impacted by mining and smelting operations in Noranda and Sudbury in his 30 years of experience, and also opposes the current plan to use fresh water bodies to dump tailings.

    Other watchdogs are Dr. Gordon Hartman, fisheries expert from BC., and Dr. John Gibson, biologist with DFO.

    Regarding Jacques Whitford's environment assessment, I personally detected some language inconsistencies, and it did not address any type of alternative tailings site options. Of course, it looks like a professional, organized, and acceptable set of guidelines. But, this and other documents which changed hands between Whitford, DFO and CEAA are considered deficient in many technical ways by a experienced fisheries scientist.

    This is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of how the process of changing the MMER regulations went, ok'ing Aur Resources application to the Scheule 2, and the evolution of what seems to me, to be a third world approach to conservation.

    These people know what they're talking about, and in their decades of experience dealing with MMER updates, and mining issues, have visited mining sites, and I'll just bet may be familiar with some of those msyterious mining jargon terms.

    The importance of amending Schedule 2 of MMER is not just a Buchans issue, it's actually a provincial and national issue. It can have a negative impact for all Newfoundlanders & Labradorians, and Canadians.

    I will write anohter blog to detail some of the points I alluded to. A new regulation to allow "new" ponds to be used as tailings will be ruining clean ponds, brooks, etc., and that ought to be everyone's concern.

    I have too much information to post a quick blog, but hope to have it up later this evening or tomorrow.

    kodak said...

    WJM, here's a link which does not give a quick direct to answer what tailings come from Wabush mines, but perhaps this is a start for you:
    http://72.14.207.104/search?q=cache:Dm13NXS4ytcJ:www.miningwatch.ca/updir/CCSG_report_en.pdf+wabush+tailings&hl=en&gl=ca&ct=clnk&cd=3

    "Wabush Lake is a common fishing lake. Though it is a big lake, there are tailings
    deposited directly to Wabush Lake from IOCC. The aluminum concentration in
    Wabush Lake was very high and exceeded the CCME guidelines in all the lakes
    of the area. Fish are very sensitive to aluminum toxicity as it forms a gel in their
    gills and suffocates them. Chronic aluminum exposure affects the protective
    coating of fish scales and increases their susceptibility to fungal infections (this
    can be seen as large red sores). The nickel concentration in Wabush Lake
    exceeds the CCME guidelines and may compromise the ecology of the lake
    through its tendency to bioaccumulate and concentrate in aquatic plants and
    further up the food chain. The iron concentration is very high in Wabush Lake
    and is toxic to the insects larvae (mayflies, caddisflies and stoneflies) that are a
    food source for fish."

    Anonymous said...

    Mr. O’Brian, I would hate for your ideology to get the best of your reason, so I’m going to ask that you read this post carefully and with a clear mind.

    It would be unfair to classify Trout Pond as a “glorified boghole”. It is large and has been clasifed as "prestine". If this was Great Britian, it would be classifed as a lake (it goes to show how we can take our natural water bodies for granted here in NL). Also, to allude to the Whitford EIS which you seem knowledgeable of, the report details the diversity of life which occupy Trout Pond as a habitat:

    “ (Salmo salar), non-anadromous or landlocked salmon (ouananiche), brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis), Arctic charr (Salvelinus alpinus), American eel (Anguilla rostrata), and the three-spine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus).

    Both Harpoon Brook (including Trout Pond, Trout Pond Brook, and the unnamed brook draining the wetland south of Trout Pond) and Noel Paul’s Brook (including Tally Pond, Tally Pond Brook, West Tally Pond, and West Tally Pond Brook) contain brook trout and Atlantic salmon, although anadromous salmon and Arctic char have not been reported in the ponds at the Project site. The total area of stream habitat in the Exploits watershed has been estimated to be
    349,000 units of all habitat types (where 1 unit = 100 m2).”

    A variety of species of avifauna are known to occur in the Duck Pond area. These include a range of waterfowl and shorebirds (e.g., green-winged teal (Anas crecca), black duck (Anas rubripes), northern pintail (Anas acuta), ring-necked duck (Aythya collaris), common goldeneye (Bucephala clangula), common merganser (Mergus merganser), red-breasted merganser (Mergus serrator), Canada goose (Branta canadensis), common loon (Gavia immer), greater yellow-legs (Tringa melanoleuca), common snipe (Gallinago gallinago), and spotted sandpiper (Actitis macularia)). Raptors that may be found in the region include merlin (Falco columbrius), American kestrel (Falco sparverius), northern harrier (Circus cyaneus), osprey (Pandion haliaetus), bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), great horned owl (Bobo virginianus), northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis), sharp-shinned hawk (Accipter striatus), boreal owl (Aegolius funereus), and northern hawk owl (Surnia ulula), as well as others. A total of 58 species of avifauna have been observed in the area over the past decade, including a variety of songbirds, such as warblers, thrushes, finches, and woodpeckers, as well as waterfowl and raptors. Aquatic furbearers such as beaver (Castor canadensis), otter (Lutra canadensis), and mink (Mustela
    vison) are known to be present in the area. Muskrat (Ondatra zebithicus) are also likely present in low densities. Other furbearer species likely to be present include: lynx (Lynx lynx); short-tailed weasel (Mustela erminea), red fox (Vulpes vulpes), and coyote (Canis latrans).”

    -Page viii, ix (Duck Pond EIS Executive Summary)

    The aquatic life is bountiful. AUR Resources failed to conduct wildlife estiminations in a credible manner:

    In 1989, initial fish sampling was done between September 21 and October 3, when
    Brook trout are known to spawn and leave ponds, rendering the results of this sampling unreliable (EIS Deficiency List October 2001).

    The 2001 EIS was rejected by Fisheries and Oceans Canada as it contained “insufficient information…to allow the quantification of fish habitat potentially impacted by the proposed project” (DFO Feb 1, 2002). Additional information was requested for Trout Pond Brook, Gill’s Pond Brook tributary, and Tally Pond Brook systems. In 2003, DFO provided new proponent Aur Resources with information on how to conduct field work to establish fish and fish habitat baselines and asked Aur to determine the “productive capacity” of Trout Pond and Gill’s Brook tributary (Sedimentation Pond) (Snow, May 22). Aur was warned that ten days may not be enough time and that sampling should not be done late in the summer when “fish (particularly brook trout) restrict their movements” (Snow, June 13). Nonetheless, Aur’s consultants undertook the sampling of Trout Pond and Sedimentation Pond in ten days during the heat of summer.

    -Aur Resouces Issues Paper, Mining Watch, Dr. Catherine Coumans

    With regards to your claim that Trout Pond can be recovered, most any habitat, given the money, can be. However, AUR Resouces and both provincial and federal governments have not stated this as their intent. The tailings dumps must be maintained “in perpetutity” and no bond from Aur will cover the costs the government will occur if they attempt to rehabitat the pond.

    TAILINGS ARE POISION, Mr. O’Brian. I don’t think you could find a single industry hack that would say otherwise, so let’s just drop that right now. Metals can seap from a containment site, poisoning aqueous life. That’s not even mentioning the risk of sulfide oxidation, where once the process starts, there’s no scientifically known way to reverse the process, and acid will drain from the site forever (Mines from Ancient Rome continue to generate acid, to this day in Europe). This project is connected to Exploits River System. Grandfalls-Winsor is directly downstream from it.

    Why are you so opposed to a safer alternative for your own homeland? What do you have against the idea that habitat and freshwater resources are valuable enough not to let mainland corporations come in and destroy them without need, and profit immensely from it?

    I’m willing to show you more of our research and information, Liam. I’m not a “townie meddler” I’m from Fox Harbour, and I’ve seen natural resource being taken for granted in the fishery first hand. We’re not doing this for fun. This is serious. Try to see this side of things. I encourage you to read the ENGO’s submission to the gazette process. Maybe then you’ll understand what risks your home, our province and our country face.

    Chad Griffiths

    Organizer
    Trout Pond Action Group
    (My email address is my last name “.” my first name @gmail.com, if you wish to contact me that way)

    NL-ExPatriate said...

    Maybe if you printed of some post cards and distributed them around for people to sign and sent to their member as well as a petition.

    You make some very good points Kodak. Any bog hole that has life like you mentioned is a natural resource worth protecting.

    Something i didn't quite get was the fact that they say Trout pond flows into the exploits so any body of water that has flowing water isn't a bog hole IMHO so someone was being disingenuous.

    You just about have me convinced to contact that list of people in positions of authority.

    I would really like to see some pictures of the bodies of water involved.

    Isn't that NL water bottling company in the general area of this?

    kodak said...

    Ggood idea Ex-Pat. There does not seem to be one at the TPAG web site (http://www.minesandcommunities.org/Action/press885.htm) but I've forwarded the suggestion to Mr. Griffiths. Will post any link if/when it's available.

    NL-ExPatriate said...

    Here is that water bottling company. I seem to remember them claiming their water comes from the bucans plateau area. Filtered through glacial substrait al the way down to the bay roberts area.
    Their site seems to be down right now so I couldn't confirm this is from the memory hole.
    http://www.true-north-springs.com/
    I bet they would have some sway with government seeing as they were just given some kind of award.

    Anonymous said...

    Newfoundland's development depends on projects like Duck Pond being successful as it will allow for other mines in the area to develop, thereby creating jobs for all around. The only person that has seen the area that I know does describe it as not much more than a bog. If Newfoundland wants to start exporting something other than Newfoundlanders and developing itself economically so that proud families can stay in the province with jobs in the province, then Duck Pond needs to get the go ahead. Find me an "enviromental" group that approves of any mining and it will be the first one I come across.

    kodak said...

    To Anon: You don't have to be a member of an environmental group to oppose a development that would ruin more of Newfoundland's beauty. It's perfectly fine for anyone to protest a dirty and contaminating plan by a mining company to use our nature for their 7 year stint - and rightly so! Even If it were nothing more that a bog, does that make it just fine to dump toxins in it? Bog or not, those toxic tailings need to be under water anyway so that the harmful acids are kept from oxidizing, which then starts the process of acid mine drainage. This leads to toxic seepage into aquifers and surface waters of the connected waterways. The ponds in question are metres deep with water, that's why Aur sees it as convenient.

    The question is not about stopping a mine development itself, but how to best manage mine wastes while the mine is operating, and after. It is important because it will send a precedent setting message that it's ok again, to use unspoiled water bodies to dump toxins. It's issue is also about sticking to the current Section 36 of the Fisheries Act which forbids toxins to be put in fish bearing waters. (If you read other related blog posts here, you'll find that there exists an amazing assortment of life in the Trout Pond area.) Aur Resources plans are not like another Tim Horton's franchise setting up in town. I'm all for people getting work and not having to put up with the environmental and financial consequences after. It does not have to be that way.

    Why would anyone not want to have a cleaner tailings management facility, or alternative, than destroying a natural ecosystem? People will still be hired to work in the mine. If a tailings facility were to be constructed that would be even more employment. If better alternatives exists elsewhere, then why not here? We need to preserve our precious ponds, lakes, wetlands. I would enjoy walking on a boardwalk over a natural bog, than a dead habitat that used to be.


    The Louvicourt mine is Val d'Or, Quebec is a man made facility which is considered to be a success, and Aur Resources was given an award for actually supporting this development. Apparantly Aur Resources did not seriously consider other alternatives for Newfoundland & Labrador. I think our economy depends on a diversity of developments, from more small businesses to recycling, to sensible industrial devevopments, like how the Duck Pond Mine project could be. We will be serving ourselves better by knowing more, being less naive, and being proud of every inch of our land.

    Liam O'Brien said...

    Chad -

    This has nothing to do with ideology. It has to do with science and empirical fact. The lobby groups that have lept on this issue are almost all come-from-aways who know little about mining technologies, environmental engineering, or the ecosystems that they preach about. What they do know they got from existing national "action groups," who have many members who subscribe to an ideology that includes a definite dislike for mining in general and a lot of unfair assumptions about the industry.

    Talking about what they would call Tout "pond" in Britain is a dodge. The brits would call many bogholes that were paved over to make room for many of the homes in the city of St. John's and other cities (where most trout pond activists live) lakes. So what?


    If there is legitimate concern for pollutants entering water, why not attack the main culprits in this province? Governments of the cities dump a far more diverse cocktail into the harbous and elsewhere. Was a "ban the bubble" protest not trendy enough?

    As for claims about the species in Trout pond, my experience leads me to think that the common brook or mud trout might be in it. I doubt there's much in the way of salmon. The number of salmon that make it above the netters and other tributaries from Badger to Bishops is measured in the hundreds. The number that would bother to reach into a tributary of a tributary of a tributary of the Exploits is virtually nil. In fact, I'd lay money on it being nil.

    Did you know that Talings on a far greater scale entered Red Indian lake from the 1920s to the late 1960s and there was no noticeable change in any fauna in that time? It sat on the bottom. Imagine! the salmon, but for the paper mill, would have been just fine in an actual lake avec talings! wow! lol

    It's no trouble to tell that none of you or almost none of you have ever been to the Harpoon system. Any biological systems in that area would still be recovering from mercury leeching from the floating of masses of logs from a logging operation in that area that seemingly slipped under your rightous radar screen . . .Harpoon is a trickle.

    The tailings that will be depositied at Trout pond is far less potent or troublesome than that deoposited at Buchans where there is green grass, trees, full flora and fauna, and actually some rare forms of fauna that prefer the area. . . Of course you wouldn't let facts like that get in the way of a good protest.

    If Tailings are to be called "poison," then you should shut down almost every community's sewage dumping from here to Rigolet. I'll bet many if not most of them don't meet the province's effluent regulations the same way all tailings water must meet it. The vast majority of reagents and other such stuff is dealt with-pre-disposal. It has to be. It's monitored closer than most of the far worse examples of pollution that you choose to ignore. Tailings is primarily, as in 99%+ mud or fine rock and water.

    Metals in most tailings are heavier than water. Therefore, unless they're stirred up, they won't do much against aqueous life in the long term if the pond is revegetated or restocked. If you knew anything about similar operations in the region, you'd know that.

    Being from Fox Harbour doesn't make you any more knowledgable about the Trout Pond Area. In fact, if you were concerned about the largest impact on aquatic life and onland fauna in that region, you'd start a petition to stop the ladios from teh coast coming inland with pickups and deepfreezes and sucking the trout out of the area because they think it's their god given right as a NFLder to gut the place of rabbits and fish. But I guess confronting the people causing the greatest impact in the region isn't as secy as going after a quebec Mining company . . .

    I've read your submission in the Muse. I've read the flyers. I've read the EIA from Whitford (which, incidentally, includes footprint minimizing measures for post-operation). I've also read extensively on tailings matters during my time and my familiy's time working on matters relating to either covering or engaging in environmental engineering for mining projects.

    Your understanding of tailings and their net effect on this area is poor at best. You're making a mountain out of a mole hill, or, in this case, an ocean out of a boghole.

    Liam O'Brien said...

    Kodak, you obviously don't know much about tailings ponds that hasn't been spoonfed to you by people who had already made up their minds but who also have never lived near one or had much to do with their assessment, creation, or revegetation.

    On the overall scale of impact, the Duck Pond mine will be less harmful to the natural environment than most mid sized Newfoundland Communities will be by dumping untreated or barely treated sewage into the very waterways you're talking about.

    If you were truly interested in Environmental triage, your focus would be on the municipal, provincial and federal governments that do more damage by looking the other way on these matters that fifty duck ponds could do for centuries.

    kodak said...

    Liam, if everyone always had to go to a particular place in the world to get knowledge, then none of us would know very much at all. I like to think that I can trust scholars whose level of erudition is similiar to those who educated me. I would hardly call the information I've read from scholars like Dr. John Gibson or Dr. Joseph Rasmussen being spoonfed. I have read alot on the whole issue and the effects contanimants have on ecosystems. It seems pretty credible to me, to hear it from experts who have dealt with situations like this before. If there's something you know about tailings that Dr. Rasmussen missed, maybe you should let him know. What I still have not heard from you or anyone is why not use alternate methods to deal with tailings? Do you discount what scientists say about how effluents can contaminate the ecosystem? Why so hell bent on using nature as a dump when as you say it's bad enough as is? Why not explore better and safer tailings facilities?

    I get the sense, and to some extent I am suspicious of people or groups outside the province who
    meddle in NL affairs, that you particularly have a problem with non-NL, having input on the proposed Schedule 2 changes. Believe me, anyone who has read my blogs on anti-sealing groups know my stand on such activists. So in that regard I can understand anyone distancing themselves from any issue that is tinged with a hint of a certain type of activist involvement. I don't try to tie myself with an image NLer's don't like.

    That's really besides the point as I don't care where people come from if what they say seems to
    make sense. The very points you make about our harbours being used as cesspools, and open lands being used for a never ending regurgitation of material trash, is one of the reasons I would rather not see another area of the province and country being contaminated.

    I am very conservative by nature when it comes to preserving what we have, recycling, and improving the problems that are piling up. Among other topics that spike an interest along the way, I will very likely in the future be focusing on those very things, for what it's worth. I agree with you on St. John's Harbour, it's a disgrace and an embarrassment. At least work has started in the right direction to clean that up.

    So my feeling about any development anywhere is that yes, we ought to be vigilent, and keep in mind they will spoonfeed you lots of wonderful information about how good they will temporarily make it. As I've said many times, I'm for people getting mining jobs, who wouldn't, but tell me why ponds, bogs, water, brooks, and nature have to be the dump? Is this Really the Best way, explain? Why be doubtful of the information from experts who's studied the effects of mining effluents on the environment, but be trustful of other "come from aways" Aur, and allow them to pollute another area when they have not seriously explored safer alternatives? Should we still roll the dice with our land anymore? I think if more thought went into this then it could benefit people now and help avoid an environemtal and financial headache later.

    Liam O'Brien said...

    Kodak, I think the TPAG should have visited Trout pond before their spokespeople started comparing it to Quidi Vidi lake. The comparison is asinine and ridiculous.

    The 'experts' you almost exclusively rely on have not stated that they think the damage will be as extensive as the Exploits river system. They also do not even aknowledge the existence of 2003 Environmental Control and Water Sewage Regulations that must be followed that clearly show that any affects would be limited to Trout Pond.

    It's very easy to get an opinion from Rasmussen and others on what will happen with what comes out of a mill. But is it fair to talk about that stage of the process, or what the company has actually planned for making sure provincial regulations are met.

    What I find amazing about this entire discussion is that if this campaign re trout pond was compared to a medical triage, it would be like sending five ambulances to deal with a toenail while a dozen people burn alive inside a house! Shouldn't we at least try to be consistent and fair and prioritize our campaigns of this nature? Shouldn't we also stop using inflammatory and misleading language to describe tailings?

    In the overal scheme of things, there is nothing in the tailings disposal plan that shows the catastrophic environmental damage that you're going on about. Anyone who has actually worked with these regulations for any length of time will realize that DFO has a very sensistive set of definitions. If you were to ever climb out of the ivory tower and visit Trout Pond, up until rcently you'd have been very far removed from the nearest contained washroom facilities. If you were shortaken and had to have either a bowel movement or urinate, you'd best not get too close to the pond, you'd be producing a deleterious substance by DFO's standards! Heck, if you dug a 6 inch hole next to the pond and dumped the dirt into the pond, you'd be creating a deleterious substance. Get the picture? The definitions and assumptions about what will happen are useless unless one understands 1 - the nature of effluent/sewage/tailings regulation in this country, 2 - the predisposition of certain lobby groups to dislike mining and mining companies and wish the ceasure of operation of most of them 3 - the context of the comments and the assessments.

    Anyone who actually reads the Jacques Whitford Assessment will clearly see that this isn't about ruining lakes, ponds, rivers etc. In fact, having a rare exception to rules that are now changed and in place for eternity hardly sounds like floodgate. The environmental work on this development predates the switches. Why should the whole process start over again? This is about one hole/pond that will be used as a tailings pond.

    In one way or another I probably ingested Buchans tailings as a kid. Jokes aside, it's not going to be as detrimental to the area as the largely out-of-province and almost all out-of-region lobbyists seem to think it is. They make the statements and then offer situations with different conditions. I can show you, with a worse/less-regulated situation that a single tailings pond simply doesn't do what they claim. I've lived near one. I've studied the papers on them. I see no problem with Aur's plan.

    kodak said...

    Liam, I guess it makes me skeptical about the Environment Assessment being approved, when it appears that DFO will permit a company to put wastes into a fish-bearing habitat. It's amusing to compare it to the pond being used by a person for his personal relief, but there will be millions of litres of toxic water and tons of pyrite based tailings actually sent to a natural pond. To start the whole process over again as you inferred, sounds cruel in a way (not sure if that's necessary anyway, given that Aur was involved in the artificial facility at Louvicourt), but I have doubts about the intentions of DFO and the changing of the MMER. It is contrary to the Fisheries Act so that other Trout Ponds anywhere can then be used. The particular geographical, hydrological, and geological factors will be different from one place to another - there may very well be a much higher risk of toxic leaching into ground water, a larger impact on animal and human populations.

    For example of a mine was developed in one of Canada's native regions, where there is a higher reliance on hunting and fishing, then that could be more obviously catastrophic for them.

    If Aur Resources exception is permitted, then DFO will be seen as not so rigid regarding their principle of preserving fish-bearing waters. This has lead me to have doubts about the EA being approved in our province.

    It is expected that there would be critics opposing any mining development because there are numerous examples of disasters from tailings, i.e, dam breaks, contaminated ground waters, and ruined habitats. Indeed other situations have different contexts, but when I read of other situations where company officials took advantage of people and ignored their concerns, then I do feel suspicious of them. The example I am referring to is, a copper mining project (name: Carmen de Andacollo Mining Company), 70% owned by Aur Resources, created much environmental grief in Chile. They put leaching piles only 200 metres from houses, which eventually collapsed. Different context, but it leaves me with a mistrust of them.

    Other examples - Piles collapsed, a major dam breaks in Spain among many other places in the world;

    Mount Washington copper mine contaminated the Tsolum river system in BC when toxins killed salmon and other aquatic life.

    They may have passed the official paperwork as I'm assume other mining companies have to go through in different regions. In the Trout Pond project there is no doubt that a fish pond habitat will be destroyed due to the "poisons" and tailings dumping, I could have called it all "contaminants" but the effect is the same. This is an immediate effect. From John Gibson's description the pond is 1.5 km long and 400 m wide in places. It's no Quidi Vidi as he had described, but it's still part of a larger ecosystem.

    Though there probably won't be immediate effects on humans health, people will be restricted from consuming it & wise not to swim there.

    In addition, there is also the concern of acid mine drainage. In many instances mining companies
    do not have a good track record when it comes to maintaining tailings facilities after mines closes.

    Because a natural pond is part of the larger ecosystem, there is the possibility that dikes/dams could break, it's happened many times before, flooding could cause this, or create the possibility of tailings disturbance, where it may come into contact with air, and thus, start the acid mine drainage process. A man made facility at least could be separate from the natural environment flow ways.

    No alternate methods were proposed in the environmental assessment, so that leaves me to think that Aur was being presumptious about getting the go ahead on this, or they just don't care about our provinces fresh water areas.

    That's how I feel about it. I hope that however it turns out that people will benefit not just now but in the long run without too many environment hassles to deal with or restricting their activities.

    Liam O'Brien said...

    Your standard here, Kodak, if applied universally, would probably lead to the bankruptcy of most Newfoundland and Labrador communities or the need to evacuate many communities and end much human activity and habitation on this island.

    But, of course, you don't apply it universally. You single out mining companies and cite people who essentially want to see an end or serious curtailment of that industry. Moreover, you cite people who have never seen how these tailings matters have been dealt with (rather successfully) in many parts of Newfoundland, including Buchans.

    The ocean is a fish-bearing habitat. If we applied the priorities/triage approach to environmental protection, why aren't you calling for the sealing-up of all sewage pipes that exit in the ocean? Why isn't government an equal target for you?

    Ask anyone who has ever worked on any survey, hydroelectric, mining or logging operation in central Newfoundland about the Department of Fisheries and Oceans' standards concerning fish bearing waters and you'll realize that this exception truly does prove the hard and well-enforced rule -- their legislation and regulations concerning keeping deleterious substances out of the waterways is followed tediously and to the point that would make most people with some common sense realize that they're MORE than careful.

    I've seen vehicles be forces to hose native mud off their tires before fording a river (fording for which took more paperwork assements and reviews than you could carry). I've seen helicopters tasked and employed to lift fuel over brooks and rivers because DFO wanted it that way even though the on-road vehicles and storage containers were designed to withstand a GD warzone type condition and would only be over water for a matter of seconds.

    Only somebody who is "johnny come lately" to the environmental regulatory situation in NL would assume that government's attitude towards these sorts of activities was anything but very diligent. . .

    Trout pond's significance here is being inflated. Anyone who has read the studies of the water systems, seen the maps, visited the sites, read the measures that this company is bound by law to implement, would realize that great care is being taken to minimize environmental impact.

    kodak said...

    Liam, how would it make sense to universally apply the dumping of 240,000,000 pounds of tailings to every community in the province, when Aur wants to do that to Trout Pond and one other? There are dozens of projects each year that have to go through the environmental assessment, check out these on the gov.nl.ca web site. What is misleading here is your presumption that people are ignorant, i.e., Trout Pond is a tiny bog hole. I've read that it is 1.3 km long & 400 m wide. That is the distance from the Arts & Culture parking lot by the lights, through the Mun campus, right to CBC studios. That's a pretty large pond. You still for some reason discredit scholars like Dr. John Gibson, who have studied the effects of tailings on fish habitats for years. The effects that tailings have on fish and fish habitats is widely known - it kills them. I've also asked a University of Manitoba professor about this, Dr. Kathleen Londry, Department of Microbiology. She said that no doubt, the fish would die. As for the others you wish had never visited a tailings dump, as I've mentioned a couple of months back, I contacted that office and asked that very question. I was told that of course, Dr. Catherine Coumans has fifteen years dealing with such issues and have visited tailings dumps. You seem to have little trust in so called outsiders, yet you have no problem trusting Aur, from the mainland, which was involved in a disastrous mining project in Chile, where they left huge piles of tailings 200 feet from peoples' homes, and it caused an ecological disaster for the region.

    I am all for people getting jobs, but I am willing to bet that if Aur had given people the choice of ruining a pristine pond and making it unusuable for decades, as opposed to building an artificial TIA like Louvicourt, then I bet they would have chosen the latter. However, they did not properly hold public consultations for people with scientific backgrounds to have input into this.

    The EIS by Whitfield is not unlike other EISs for other mining companies. It's a template which is unfortunately based on Gov. regulations where at one point uses the phrase "tailings pond." It's time for them to update that. (Also, speaking of gov., for my part I did send ministers of Env. and Fisheries, Fed. and Prov. a letter of concern about the Duck Pond situation, it's in a previous blog.) Getting back to the EIS, it is almost ludicrous for you to mention how the company is so concerned for the environment that they stick to the guidelines of hosing tires when crossing a stream. Well, duh, any preventative measure is a given, but it seems pretty silly when just up the road 1.2 million tonnes of tailings will be dumped into a pond with two dams at each end to keep the water high enough to cover the waste. (and that's with the other half, 1.2 accounted for, i.e., dumped back into the mine.)

    In an era of environmental consciousness and preserving what we have, Aur have insultingly decided to give people no choice but to use a conventional and destructive method to dispose of their tailings. If the technology was good enough for Val D'Court, Quebec, then why not here? These TIA ponds will now be off limits for anyone's enjoyment for many years to come. No drinking, fishing, swimming, and I can't imagine a tourist hiking trail or camp ground being built around it to breathe and smell the 1.2 km of tailings soup.

    If Aur was aware that their application to use two fish bearing pond was in violation of the Fisheries Act, it seems presumptious of them to apply to use it and while it was not passed into law, Jacques Whitmore's EIS assumes that the ponds will be the TIA. Besides saving the company a few bucks, where is the rationale for not going with an artificial TIA? I think it's time companies abided by national guidelines, and have respect for our province and it's people. They are a profit based organization not an employer first. Their goal is to cut costs, and that definitely would include people if robots could do all the work. There are already at least three other potential mining projects to take place in the province. There could be 20 in the next 10 to 20 years, so applying your belief, then there could be dozens of pristine freshwater bodies used as dumps, and be off limits for consumption and recreation

    Liam O'Brien said...

    Kodak said:

    "Liam, how would it make sense to universally apply the dumping of 240,000,000 pounds of tailings to every community in the province, when Aur wants to do that to Trout Pond and one other?"

    1. You still haven't given a very honest description of tailings, or the flow-out from tailings ponds, preferring instead to use general and more fearmongering terms to describe it.

    2. My point was that many if not most communities on this island dump raw sewage into the water system. Why aren't you protesting that? If environmental protest is truly about triage on practical threats, Trout Pond would be but a fart in the mist. In fact, the precautions taken with Trout Pond in following the provincial outflow regulations far exceed that taken re sewage -- which in many cases is even worse than tailings by some measures!


    kodak said:
    "There are dozens of projects each year that have to go through the environmental assessment, check out these on the gov.nl.ca web site. "

    Yep. And Duck Pond's assessment, as well as it's Impact work and environmental plan are there too. This isn't just a matter of sticking a pipe on one end of a boghole. This is very involved process.


    Kodak said:
    "What is misleading here is your presumption that people are ignorant, i.e., Trout Pond is a tiny bog hole. I've read that it is 1.3 km long & 400 m wide. That is the distance from the Arts & Culture parking lot by the lights, through the Mun campus, right to CBC studios. That's a pretty large pond. "

    Well, I've been there. I've seen it. I never measured it with any survey equipment or anything, but I suspect It depends entirely on the time of year. That figure sounds somewhat inflated to me. And my original comment was that it was a glorified bog hole. Anyone who knows anything about the bogs in central NL will know what I meant.


    Kodak said:
    "You still for some reason discredit scholars like Dr. John Gibson, who have studied the effects of tailings on fish habitats for years."

    Actually, I take issue more with the grandiose claims of widespread affect on fish habitat beyond Trout Pond. While the operation is going on, Trout Pond won't be much to look at, but the effects will not be (as some alarmists claimed) felt all the way down the Exploits. If the filed plan is followed, that is absolutely impossible.

    I once again go back to the Buchans examples. Within a few years after the ceasure of mine operations, trout returned in some levels to the tailings ponds. After Reams of studies by government and university, not a lick of effect was noticed in connected waterways.

    Come to Buchans some time. I'll show you more fauna and flora on the tailings and in the water than you can shake a stick at. It's not perfect. There wasn't a zero-effect in the pond, but the recovery wasn't bad at all. In fact, it started DURING the final years of operation.

    Kodak:
    " You seem to have little trust in so called outsiders,"

    I have little trust for activists who have previously sworn all but a blood oath against companies and business on principle or who have as a principle as general mistrust for an entire industry and anyone who operates in it.

    In this case though, I don't trust the set up. Were these people presented with the overall plan? The other examples of operations in NL and the entire context? Or were they simply asked "what happens when tailings is dumped into a test pool?" It's easy for you to get the answers you want if you only ask the questions that help you get there. . .



    Kodak said:
    "yet you have no problem trusting Aur, from the mainland,"

    Who said I have any special "trust" for Aur? I trust the regulatory system that will still fall upon that company in how it handles its tailings and outflow from tailings pond. . . I am also impressed with the work done by Jacques Whitford on this. The plan, if followed, will be quite effective in minimizing net environmental damage.

    You know why? I've seen the process in action at all stages.

    Kodak said:
    " which was involved in a disastrous mining project in Chile, where they left huge piles of tailings 200 feet from peoples' homes, and it caused an ecological disaster for the region."

    1. Comparing the water an mining regulations in Chile and Canada is utterly ridiculous and insane. It's night and day.

    2. If it wasn't for the last part of your sentence, one would not really be able to determine the significance of what you say. The mere presence of Tailings does not necessarily cause ecological "disaster" in a region. It's almost all pureed rock with some natural metal content and sometimes traces of reagent.

    3. Tailings vary. Without you naming the specific operation in Chile, it's very difficult to evaluate what happened there.

    Kodak said:
    "I am all for people getting jobs, but I am willing to bet that if Aur had given people the choice of ruining a pristine pond and making it unusuable for decades,"

    Again, I think you should visit the place before you describe it that way. On one end, as I recall, there was abandoned stuff from hunters or surveyors or some other camp from far in the past. There were other signs of improper use. Of course, now you won't see that becauseit ha been prepared for use.

    Also - define "unusable." I have seen tailings ponds and tailings mounds vegetated enough to allow many different kinds of fauna graze with no real effect on them.


    Kodak said:
    "as opposed to building an artificial TIA like Louvicourt, then I bet they would have chosen the latter."

    Such systems sound good (and are good) for certain operations, but actually add an additional foreign body to the area. . . one that eventually breaks down anyway.

    Kodak said:
    "However, they did not properly hold public consultations for people with scientific backgrounds to have input into this."

    Not true. The process started back in 2000-2001. I remember the call for submissions and the consultation. Moreover, some of the best tailings experts in this province were relied-upon in the assessment anyway.

    Kodak said:
    "Getting back to the EIS, it is almost ludicrous for you to mention how the company is so concerned for the environment that they stick to the guidelines of hosing tires when crossing a stream. Well, duh, any preventative measure is a given,"

    You miss my point. They monitored the whole thing. They watched like hawks, and so they should. So why do you act as if the provincial outflow regulations aren't t be followed when EIS mentioned them and stated that they will be followed?

    Why make unfounded claims about effects on other waterways?

    Kodak said:
    "No drinking, fishing, swimming, and I can't imagine a tourist hiking trail or camp ground being built around it to breathe and smell the 1.2 km of tailings soup."

    Soup? Again, you show very little understanding of tailings. Tailings in base metal operations is usually very heavy. It settles. That which is under the water doesn't have an "odor."

    Moreover, anyone who actually laid their eyes on Troup Pond before this knew damn well that it was not a likely fishing hole (not too many there, absurd to even try in such a little place, but I and many others I know tried.); I doubt anybody except those with a leech fetish ever swam there, and drinking the water there would have been about as apetizing as ringing-out a soggy hummock.

    Kodak said:
    "There could be 20 in the next 10 to 20 years, so applying your belief, then there could be dozens of pristine freshwater bodies used as dumps, and be off limits for consumption and recreation"

    Actually, the Duck Pond project is rather exceptional because of the timing of its environmental work. But to be quite honest, provided the rules as set for tailings ponds are followed in the way Whitford held out, The net effect of a full 100+ more such ponds is negligible. If they all started tomorrow and followed the course followed by Buchans (and these days they'd be held to a standard light years higher), they'd be relatively safe and accessible to most flora and fauna well within the lifetime of the average Newfoundlander and effect on surrounding water would be pretty much non-existant. This province has about 31,340 square km of water area. Even If the most wildly optimistic projections for mining over the next century or two were to come true, and understanding roughly what fraction of those would actually require a tailings pond, the most affected water area we'd be looking at would be less than 3 tenths of 1%. Of course, since the new regime makes exceptions of Trout Pond nature less common or worth the hassle anyway, and since our full mining potential is unlikely to be realized for a host of reasons, you'd best practice up on your scientific notation in order to split down those figures . . .