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Canada: Glencore given time to meet new nickel emission limits

Published by MAC on 2016-01-28
Source: CBC News

MOE gives Glencore 10 years to meet new nickel emission limits

Laurentian University biologist says industry knew this regulation was coming 10 years ago

CBC News

26 January 2016

Another Sudbury smelter won't have to meet stricter nickel emissions standards that are set to take effect this summer.

The Ministry of the Environment has given Glencore a 10-year extension to achieve compliance at its Sudbury smelter.

The company first took its emissions plan to the public in 2014, and MOE spokesperson Kate Jordan says the plan has been given a rigorous overview.

"Because the standards are based on advanced science ... there might not always be the technology or the investments available to companies to meet that," she said.

"So that's why we are allowing this catch-up period, if you will."

Industry is being given a grace period to develop technology and find funding.

Glencore will have to demonstrate that it is working toward reducing nickel and nickel compounds, Jordan added.

​"A 60 per cent reduction in the next six years and, following that, the company will be required to continue to look at ways to achieve further reductions," she said.

"And report on those so that there is also built-in transparency in terms of the reporting that's done on the progress."
Calls for stricter enforcement

The reasoning behind granting exemptions to the stricter standards set to take effect this summer doesn't sit well with a biologist with Laurentian University, Charles Ramcharan.

Charles Ramcharan, a biology professor at Laurentian University, says the Ministry of the Environment lacks the resources to police its standards. (CBC)

"Boy, I'm not convinced," he said. "I think there are other facilities that do meet these standards."

Industry knew this regulation was coming 10 years ago, he said.

Back in the 1970s, Ramcharan said, the Ministry of the Environment came up with its first standards and, from that point forward, scientists have known that nickel was more harmful to people and the environment than had been thought.

Enforcement of stricter standards is an issue for the ministry, he said.

Ramcharan estimated there were more than 140 facilities that emit nickel — but only a small percent have been inspected. Some have never had an inspection, and 40 per cent are operating without permits.

The Ministry lacks the resources to police its standards, he told CBC News. Funding was gutted in the 1990s under the Mike Harris government. After Walkerton in 2000, when E. coli in the water caused deaths, he said, funding did go up.

"But, even in 2010, it was still one-half of the level it was in 1991," he said. "So they simply don't have the facility to do the inspections and look after our environment properly."

It's a multi-faceted issue, admitted Ramcharan.

"There's always this conflict between harming this industry and making sure health is protected," he said, adding that both government and industry need "to make sure they clean up their act."

No one at Glencore could be reached for comment.

Ten applications for extensions from industry around the province have been approved, Jordan said. And six more are under consideration.

Vale in Sudbury is one of the 10 already given extra time to meet emissions standards.

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