MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Canada update

Published by MAC on 2007-10-23


Canada update

23rd October 2007

Forty percent of properties around Xstrata Zinc's lead smelter at Belledune, in New Brunswick, contain unacceptably high levels of lead.

One of Winnipeg's most celebrated environmentalists has taken a post with the province's top toxic polluter - responsible for the worst point source of arsenic and mercury emissions in North America last year.

A Canadian First Nation now faces the prospect of losing its lawyers, while defending itself against a ruthless nickel and platinum exploration outfit.


Consultants find 40% of properties sampled in Belledune contaminated with lead

Conservation Council of New Brunswick

18th October 2007

Contact: (506) 622-2460 Inka Milewski, Science Advisor

After three years of waiting, the government now has confirmation that the area of contamination identified by the Conservation Council was correct.

Consultants working for Xstrata Zinc have found that the footprint of lead contamination covers a 4 to 6 km radius of the smelter.

Information provided by the consultants at a public information session in Belledune yesterday indicated that 9 properties had lead levels high enough to require "precautionary soil removal".

"That information is misleading" said Inka Milewski, science advisor for the Conservation Council. "It suggests that only 9 properties had lead levels of concern. In fact, 60 of 150 properties sampled had lead levels above [that of[ the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment but that information wasn’t available unless you asked."

Thallium and arsenic levels on an unspecified number of properties were also above the CCME guidelines.

"The question we posed four years ago - what is the extent of the contamination in Belledune? - had now been answered," said Milewski. "The answer is 40%. The government now needs to order the smelter to clean up all the contaminated properties as soon as possible. People have been living in a poisoned environment long enough and more soil sampling is not going to change that reality."


Axworthy on board of top polluter

By Jen Skerritt, The Winnipeg Free Press

18th October 2007

Lloyd Axworthy, one of the province’s most heralded environmental leaders, is under fire for accepting a lucrative post with the province’s top polluter.

In June 2006, Axworthy, the former chairman of the Manitoba Climate Change Task Force, accepted a position on the board of HudBay Minerals Inc., a Flin Flon smelter that spewed out more toxic arsenic and mercury than any plant in North America last year.

According to HudBay’s May 2007 public shareholder report, Axworthy made close to $30,000 last year serving on the board and attending four of five director meetings. He also owns 6,000 shares in HudBay, worth more than $155,000 in Thursday’s market.

Though Axworthy said he’s hoping to help the northern smelter reduce its emissions and overall environmental impact, critics are waiting to see whether his presence on the board will result in concrete progress.

“I don’t always think it works,” said Lindsay Telser, director of the Prairie chapter of the Sierra Club. “The pressure is on him to prove he’s going to do it, and the province is watching.”

Telser said many environmentalists support working inside the “belly of the beast” to help corporations green their operations. However, she said that’s not always realistic — it depends a lot on the motivation of the person and the company.

Tesler said that because Axworthy is an influential public figure, she hopes he will push the boundaries and advocate for tighter government regulations on emissions.

“Has he made any substantial changes?” she wondered. “What is he doing and how is he proving himself in this position?”

Axworthy defended his decision to work from inside HudBay and said environmentalists should be encouraged by the fact the smelter sought someone like himself with a strong record in environmental change and pollution prevention.

In the last year, Axworthy said he’s worked with other board members to ensure HudBay complies with all federal and provincial regulations, works with local non-government environmental groups in Flin Flon and moves ahead with a health-risk assessment in the tiny northern town.

Although the company is facing a number of challenges, Axworthy said HudBay is working towards meeting them.

He pointed to the company’s $200-million upgrade in the mid-1990s to reduce emissions and said HudBay has always complied with government regulations.

“It’s not easy to overcome 80 years of legacy, but I think they’re making a very active effort to do that,” Axworthy said. “On the board, I can help facilitate and support and encourage that change with careful examination. This is one company that has far exceeded the Kyoto requirement in terms of greenhouse gases.”

But Arthur Schafer, director of the University of Manitoba’s Centre for Applied Ethics, said Axworthy’s new gig is putting academic freedom and the integrity of the University of Winnipeg in jeopardy and that Axworthy should resign from the board.

He said research has proven that people’s judgment is influenced by money, and that no university president can expect to remain impartial if they’re being paid to sit on a board.

“It’s a conflict of interest and I don’t think any university president should be allowed (to do this),” Schafer said.

Axworthy said he serves on about 10 other boards as well as on HudBay’s, including one other paid position at the U.S.-based MacArthur Foundation, which awards grants to international sustainability and community development projects.

He said working on multiple boards is standard practice for most university presidents these days, and is another way of getting involved in the local and international community.


Kitchenumaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation (KI) says that they can no longer continue to defend their interests in court, because they are facing "financial demise" over their legal bills.

Miningwatch Canada

23rd October 2007

In an open letter to the Province, and the mining company, KI says that they intend to act as "unrepresented litigants" as they cannot afford to pay their lawyer.

KI was sued for $10 billion in 2005 by Platinex, a junior mining company, because they had refused to let them on to their traditional territory to explore for nickel and platinum group minerals. The community then counter-sued the company and the Ontario Government. The Superior Court judge who heard the case on the injunction requests from both parties, decided that the Ontario government had a responsibility to develop an MOU with the First Nation and the exploration company before the company could enter on the traditional territory.

The negotiations over that MOU have been going on intermittently. No costs have been awarded.

On Thursday October 25, KI is scheduled for another court appearance, and the community has asked their lawyer, Kate Kempton, to address their financial situation with the court, and ask for relief for the First Nation.

 

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