Mainstream Media Ignorance About Mining – Especially Waste Disposal – by Marilyn Scales

Marilyn Scales - Canadian Mining JournalMarilyn Scales is a field editor for the Canadian Mining Journal, Canada’s first mining publication. She is one of Canada’s most senior mining commentators.

I’ve let the daily press get under my skin again. Newspapers and the CBC are telling the public that mining companies are going to destroy pristine Canadian lakes by turning them into dump sites for toxic mine waste. Why does the popular press still think that everything coming from a mine operation is “toxic”? Has no one outside the mining industry ever heard of sub-aqueous deposition?

There are 16 projects for which mining companies have applied to use lakes as tailings repositories, claim the environmentalists. The list includes the following 15:

BRITISH COLUMBIA
– NORTHGATE MINERALS – Kemess North (Duncan Lake)
– SHERWOOD COPPER – Kutcho Creek (Andrea Creek)
– ADANAC MOLY – Ruby Creek (Ruby Creek)
– TASEKO MINES – Prosperity (Fish Lake)
– IMPERIAL METALS – Red Chris
– TERRANE METALS – Mount Milligan

MANITOBA
– CROWFLIGHT MINERALS – Bucko Lake

NEWFOUNDLAND & LABRADOR
– TECK COMINCO – Duck Pond (Trout Pond and Gill’s Brook)
– IRON ORE CO. OF CANADA – Carol (Wabush Lake)
– WABUSH MINES – Scully (Flora Lake)
– VALE INCO – Long Harbour (Sandy Point)

NORTHWEST TERRITORIES
– GGL DIAMOND – Winter Lake

NUNAVUT
– NEWMONT MINING – Doris North (Tail Lake)
– AGNICO-EAGLE – Meadowbank (Second Portage Lake)
– ZINIFEX – High Lake

Looking down the list, a couple things come to mind. The Kemess North copper project has been rejected, and it remains to be seen if Northgate can get it back on track. The Carol and Wabush iron ore mines have been around more than 50 years. (I bet the reporters writing the tailings stories haven’t been around that long.) The Duck Pond copper-zinc mine has been in commercial production since August 2007. (I’ll grant that the reporters are probably older than the Duck Pond mine.)

Recent news stories call lake deposition a violation of the Fisheries Act. No one has told any of these naysayers that mining companies go to great lengths to remove fish from lakes they intend to use, and that the fish population is restored at the end of the operation. If the fish are removed (with permission), how does a fishery law apply?

Nor is the idea of sub-aqueous tailings deposition new. The Island Copper mine on Vancouver Island operated that way for 25 years. Since the mine closed in December 1995, follow-up environmental reports found that widespread heavy metal contamination was avoided. On the whole, the submarine scheme resulted in less severe impacts that a land-based impoundment area would have.

Nor is this the only example. The sub-aqueous disposal technique was practised in the Arctic at the Polaris lead-zinc mine.

My beef with the daily press is that the people who write the stories don’t know enough about what they are reporting on. The reporter, then an editor, then a headline writer all go over the item creating three opportunities for mistakes and bias to creep into a story.

Give me the business press any day.

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