MAC: Mines and Communities

Fishworkers concerned at submarine tailings dumping in Labrador

Published by MAC on 2007-12-20

Fishworkers concerned at submarine tailings dumping in Labrador

20th December 2007

Canadian fishworkers have come out strongly against a proposal by CVRD-Inco to dump mine tailings into a local bay from the company's huge Voisey's Bay mine.

Placentia Bay Fish Harvesters Concerned About Environmental Impact of Nickel Processing Plant

St. John's

20th December 2007

Fish, Food and Allied Workers (FFAW/CAW) are strongly opposed to a proposal to dump effluent from a planned nickel processing facility in Long Harbour into Placentia Bay, Union President Earle McCurdy said today.

Mr. McCurdy said fish harvesters in Placentia Bay are raising a number of serious environmental concerns over the development of the proposed smelter.

Harvesters are worried that plans for the smelter, including a pipeline to get rid of "treated" effluent, will severely harm fisheries and fish habitat in the area and in turn have an adverse impact on their livelihoods.

Voisey's Bay Nickel Company Limited (VBNC) is seeking environmental approval for a nickel processing facility in Long Harbour.

Placentia Bay fish harvesters fear that the effluents from the processing plant will expose fish species in the area to harmful pollutants.

VBNC plans to construct a six-kilometre pipeline to discharge the "treated" effluent to an area near the mouth of Long Harbour. This pipeline will release the effluent onto prime fishing grounds for many species. The company expects that the natural currents of the bay will result in the dispersion of the effluent.

Mr. McCurdy said harvesters are not convinced that will be the case.

Significant amounts of effluent are expected to be pumped into the bay on an annual basis. The cumulative impact may harm habitat and species.

The Union president said there has to be an alternative method of disposing of the run-off from the nickel processing facility, rather than the 'out of sight, out of mind" means of pumping it into the ocean.

Ironically, Mr. McCurdy pointed out, new regulations have been proposed for all fishing vessels to have holding or treatment facilities onboard their vessels to handle their minimal amounts of sewer.

"It doesn't make sense for a large facility like a nickel processing plant to pipe massive amounts of foreign substances into the ocean," he said.

Mr. McCurdy said harvesters are also concerned with increased vessel traffic and risk of a spill, gear loss and damage, loss of access to fishing grounds, lower catch rates, and the future marketability of product.

"Harvesters are worried that their livelihoods, the species they harvest and the marine environment will be overlooked in the rush to expand the industrialization of Placentia Bay."

The current level of activity in Placentia Bay is on the verge of dramatically increasing with three times the number of shipping transactions as a result of a number of proposed industrial projects for the area, including the smelter, an oil refinery and a liquefied natural gas terminal.

A significant expansion is also under consideration for the existing oil refinery in Come By Chance.

To view a copy of the FFAW/CAW submission to the Department of the Environment concerning the Environmental Impact Statement for the Long Harbour Proposal click here


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