MAC: Mines and Communities

Canada update

Published by MAC on 2007-07-03

Canada update

3rd July 2007

Xstrata Zinc seems, for now at least, to have escaped independent scrutiny on pollution from its Brunswick Smelter, despite a 2005 study showing unacceptable health risks in the nearby communities.

First nations in eastern Ontario have forced the uranium mining company Frontenac Ventures to put its operations on hold through protests.

Search for New Brunswick smelter link to cancer rates ditched

3rd July 2007

CBC News -

The New Brunswick government has quietly abandoned plans for an independent study that would look for a connection between high cancer rates in the Belledune area and pollution from the nearby Xstrata Zinc Canada Brunswick lead smelter.

The province said last week it would not follow through on a study announced last year that would have had researchers at Memorial University of Newfoundland follow up on a 2005 study.

The Memorial study was to have been a followup the 2005 Belledune Area Health Study, which found the region to have a higher rate of certain cancers and other diseases than the rest of the province.

Environmentalist Inka Milewski said the Memorial researchers would have studied whether lead pollution was to blame.

"They were going to re-examine some of the industrial emissions and potential impacts of those emissions on people's health. It was going to be quite comprehensive," Milewski said.

But the province said last week it has its own study underway, one that will not look at the role of industrial lead pollution from the nearby smelter, as it tries to find an explanation for the high rates of disease in the area.

Provincial epidemiologist Chris Balram said the province and the university couldn't agree on how the study should be done, though he wouldn't give details.

Balram said the 2005 report, which also examined concentrations of lead, cadmium and arsenic in the environment, concluded lead levels in the area did not pose a risk, and that other factors such as lifestyle could be to blame.

"You can have in some areas clusters of cancers associated with certain risk factors clustered in that area. It's a possibility," he said. "It's been shown in other studies."

Last year, Balram said that heavy metal contamination couldn't be ruled out as the cause of high cancer rates in the Belledune area.

The 2005 study found low lead levels in the area in recent years, Milewski said, but much higher levels going back decades.

She says those amounts should be looked at as a potential cause of today's high cancer rates in the area.

The 2005 Belledune Area Health Study found residents who lived near the town smelter between 1989 and 2001 have significantly higher rates of oral, respiratory and prostate cancers than people anywhere else in New Brunswick.

It also found people living near the smelter over the 12 years studied suffered more deaths from circulatory disease, cancer and suicides than expected.

Final results from the provincial study are to be in by September 2008.

The lead smelter was operated by Noranda until the company merged with Xtrata Zinc in 2006.

Belledune study shows cancer link

Times & Transcript - Appeared on page D8

4th July 2007

To The Editor:

The province's epidemiologist, Christofer Balram, said previous studies have ruled out exposure to lead and other heavy metals from industrial sources as the reason for the high cancer and disease rates in Belledune (Times & Transcript, June 30, 2007). That's why the new health study for Belledune will look at diet, physical activity rates and family history as a possible cause for the high cancer, disease and mortality rates in the area.

In making that statement, he is ignoring the results of the 2005 Belledune Area Health Human Heath Risk Assessment commissioned by his department.

That particular study examined the cancer and disease risks faced by Belledune residents as a result of their exposure to lead, arsenic and cadmium emissions from industrial sources in Belledune. The study found that, for the time period (1967 to the present) and for all areas of Belledune, the cancer and other disease risks associated with industrial emissions of arsenic were above the provincial health standards and considered unacceptable. The cancer and disease risk associated with industrial emissions of cadmium for all time periods for Townsite #2 and Lower Belledune -- neighbourhoods closest to the smelter -- were also above the provincial health standards and considered unacceptable.

As for exposure to industrial sources of lead, the disease risks for adults in Lower Belledune were above the provincial health standard and considered unacceptable for all time periods. Between 1975 and 1984, children in all areas of Belledune were exposed to unacceptable disease risks as a result of their exposure to lead from industrial emissions.

All these results can be found in pages 136-167 of the 2005 Belledune Area Health Human Heath Risk Assessment.

It is a well-established scientific concept that the time it takes for cancers and other diseases to develop after exposure to lead and other contaminants can take decades. This time period is referred to as the "latency period".

The question that has not been answered by any of the Belledune studies done thus far is this -- did the high health risks experienced by children and residents 20 to 30 years ago result in the high cancer and disease rates we see in the community today?

Answering this question should be the priority for the new health study for Belledune.

Inka Milewski,
Science Advisor,
Conservation Council of New Brunswick,

Ont. uranium plans on hold amid native protest threats

25th June 2007

CBC News -

A uranium mining company has put its operations on hold in an eastern Ontario community, leaving residents with mixed feelings.

Frontenac Ventures left North Frontenac Township, about 110 kilometres southwest of Ottawa, last week, after local First Nations threatened to hold a day or multiple days of protest. Frontenac plans to develop uranium deposits in the area.

Both the Sharbot Lake Algonquin First Nation and the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation say they are opposed to the development, which involves mainly Crown land that is the subject of ongoing land claim negotiations with the provincial and federal governments.

George White, president of Frontenac Ventures, said Chief Doreen Davis of the Sharbot Lake Algonquin First Nation asked the company to withdraw until the days of protest are complete.

The company is trying to negotiate with the Sharbot Lake First Nation, White said. But it is not concerned about protests from the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation, which has no legal claim to the land the companying is eyeing, White said.

The company plans to resume development on the Crown and privately held land where it has staked mineral rights, White said.


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