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Misplaced umbrage?

Misplaced umbrage?

Letter to the Editor


I will be the first to say Justin Duncan deserves credit: obviously the government should obey its own regulation under the National Pollutant Release Inventory (NRPI). But the regulation that he and his clients want the government to obey, as applied to waste rock and mill tailings, is foolishness.
     What Great Lakes United, MiningWatch Canada, and Ecojustice (formerly the Sierra Legal Defence Fund) wanted to see was every last speck of dirt moved by a mining operation categorized as the release of a pollutant. That just ain't so—since 2007 the regulation has applied to natural materials moved from one place to another and to other natural material that has been through a process that reduces, not increases, the amount of heavy metals in it. We are not talking about dumping contaminants into the environment here. We are talking about earthmoving.
     When nature does that, it's called erosion and redeposition. When someone did it to build Justin Duncan's house, it was called construction. When Duncan did it back in Grimsby, it was called agriculture. Yet when miners do it, Duncan calls it pollution.
     The regulation was evidently the Environment Canada bureaucracy's effort to harmonize NPRI with the American Environmental Protection Agency's Toxics Release Inventory, which until 2004 treated waste rock and mill tailings the same way. A 2004 court decision listened to the science and removed waste rock from the Inventory—with the result that the U.S. mining industry's reportable "toxics release" fell by 43 per cent in one year. These numbers are, in short, physically meaningless and a joke.
     The NPRI regulation is (to quote Mr. Bumble) an ass. Justin Duncan seems intent on kicking the wrong one.
James B. Whyte, MSc'85
Richmond Hill, ON