The open-pit diamond mine operated by De Beers Canada Inc. is positioned upstream from the Attawapiskat First Nation. Starting in 2008, the challenge pumped water from the open pit into the Granny Creek water system which flows into the Attawapiskat River, triggering an increase within the mercury degree within the water and the fish populations.
The mine ceased operations in 2019 however is required to proceed monitoring mercury in response to its provincial allow. De Beers Canada was required to report mercury monitoring knowledge yearly from eight mercury monitoring stations and one management website positioned on the Granny Creek water system.
When the mine was in operation, De Beers Canada was required to report mercury monitoring knowledge yearly from eight mercury monitoring stations and one management website positioned on the Granny Creek water system. The mine ceased operations in 2018 however is required to proceed monitoring mercury in response to its provincial allow.
The decision final week concluded the personal prosecution Ecojustice launched in partnership with former prosecutor David Wright, based mostly on proof collected by Wildlands League.
The proof indicated that De Beers had repeatedly didn’t report mercury and methylmercury ranges in water methods across the Victor Mine over a interval of seven years.
Methylmercury is a dangerous poison, and publicity to elevated ranges of mercury places native populations and the surroundings in danger. Elevated ranges of mercury in river water can current a hazard to human well being even in extraordinarily small portions, Ecojustice mentioned in a information launch.
Mercury accumulates in fish and is present in larger ranges in bigger fish comparable to pike. The reporting failures undermined the effectiveness of the mine’s early warning system for mercury air pollution.
Mercury monitoring knowledge repeatedly exceeded US Environmental Safety Company (EPA) reference tips for wildlife and human publicity to mercury from monitoring stations between 2008 and 2015.
In a 2013 report, De Beers acknowledged that the Canadian requirements “should not sufficiently protecting” of the surroundings and that it’s extra applicable to depend on the US EPA requirements.
In court docket, De Beers agreed that it didn’t report the 2014 sampling outcomes for whole mercury on the G2 monitoring station in its 2014 annual report. Whereas together with within the report knowledge from that station, which is positioned between two different stations – the sampling from which have been reported, wouldn’t have modified the result of the monitoring evaluation, De Beers acknowledges that this data ought to nonetheless have been reported in step with the situation.
All sampling outcomes taken on the G2 station have been nicely inside Canadian and Provincial Water High quality Pointers for the Safety of Aquatic Life and complied with the mine’s Certificates of Approval.
“Mercury was by no means used throughout operations on the mine and is of course occurring all through the James Bay lowlands,” De Beers mentioned in an emailed assertion.
“De Beers screens for mercury and methyl mercury within the surrounding surroundings and can proceed to take action as required by permits and approvals. All sampling outcomes for mercury have complied with the mine’s Certificates of Approval, and all annual mercury monitoring experiences for Victor mine are publicly accessible on De Beers Canada’s web site,” the corporate mentioned.
The corporate mentioned the mercury monitoring program for Victor mine is extra rigorous than that of some other mine in Ontario.
“All through the lifetime of Victor mine, mercury and different water high quality knowledge have been collected from all monitoring stations specified within the mine’s Certificates of Approval,” De Beers mentioned.
As per the phrases of the decision, De Beers agreed to publicize all previous and future annual mercury monitoring experiences on its web site. The corporate additionally agreed to pay a nominal superb of $100 and to make a $50,000 donation to the Nature Conservancy of Canada.
The case units a precedent for mining actions within the province, together with “Ring of Hearth” space in Northern Ontario, and the way mining air pollution is to be reported and controlled.
“The precedent set by this case will assist enhance regulatory oversight of future mine tasks and may make polluters assume twice within the occasion they’re tempted to sidestep their reporting duties,” Ecojustice lawyer Zachary Biech mentioned.
De Beers said it spent $2.6 billion to construct and function the mine, of which $820 million has gone to Indigenous and native companies in northern Ontario. It additionally paid C$110 million in royalties to the federal government of Ontario and one other C$100 million in company social funding and funds to communities.
Throughout its operation, the Victor mine yielded roughly 8.1 million carats of diamonds.