Canadian smelters pump out toxic waste - report
TORONTO - The Canadian Environmental Defence Fund said mining smelters in Canada released more than 2.3 million pounds of heavy metals in 1998, including arsenic, mercury, lead and nickel compounds, all highly poisonous and harmful to peoples health and the environment.
The report emerged as environmental and mining stakeholders prepared to meet the federal government in Ottawa on Thursday to find ways to reduce the toxins.
The fund said the worst polluter was Inco Ltd., the western worlds largest nickel miner, which released 1.1 million pounds of heavy metal into the environment from its facilities in Ontario and Manitoba.
"Overall, Inco released almost two billion pounds of sulfur dioxide which causes acid rain," the environmental group, an independent organization dedicated to environmental justice, said in a statement.
It also listed Noranda Inc., Hudson Bay Mining & Smelting Co., a unit of Anglo American Plc, Falconbridge Ltd. and Cominco Ltd. as major polluters.
"We acknowledge that the mining industry has made improvements in reducing emissions of heavy metal poisons. However, a great deal still needs to be done," said Burkhard Mausberg, executive director of the fund.
Mausberg said the funds latest report came from information provided by the mining groups to a consultant for Environment Canada for a study to be released at Thursdays meeting.
He said base metal companies were making huge profits and spending, in comparison, very little on environmental protection. He said Inco, Noranda and Falconbridge each made profits over the last two years of more than half a billion dollars.
"When you look at those numbers that is when we ask if they should be spending a little more on protecting the environment," he told Reuters.
Mausberg said Thursdays meeting will explore a national plan for the metals industry to reduce emissions over the next eight years and beyond.
"What we are hoping is that the meeting comes up with tough new standards for that particular industry, that will be geared to long-term solutions that will be equal for all Canadian companies," Mausberg said.
Ranked by facility, the funds report said Incos Copper Cliff operation in Sudbury, Ontario, was a major polluter, followed by Norandas Horne smelter in Quebec, then Hudson Bays Flin Flon smelter in Manitoba, Incos Thompson operation in Manitoba, Falconbridges Kidd Creek facility in Ontario and Comincos Trail zinc operation in British Columbia.
Inco said its environmental plans to cutback on toxins at its smelters through 2008 had been approved in 1999 by the same environmental and mining stakeholders that will meet meeting on Thursday.
"We certainly have a strategy in place to spend considerable money to make considerably more progress in the Sudbury area and out in Thomson, to address both the sulfur dioxide and the metal emissions," Inco spokesman Jerry Rogers said.
Noranda said it was trying to reduce toxins from Horne by more than 50 percent. The smelter processed 720,000 tonnes of copper concentrates in 1999.
"We are currently working on a program, and have already spent C$60 million, to reduce those emissions by another 50 percent within the next two, two and a half years," Noranda spokesman Denis Couture told Reuters.
Story by Lesley Wroughton
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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