Newfoundland Government Rejects Environmental Impact Statement for Nickel Plant

(Ottawa) The Newfoundland Department of Environment and Conservation has rejected Voisey’s Bay Nickel Company (VBNC)’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for a proposed nickel processing plant at Long Harbour in Newfoundland.

MiningWatch Canada and other concerned organizations and citizens have provided detailed comments expressing serious concern about the impacts of the proposed hydrometallurgical processing plant on marine, freshwater and terrestrial environments at Long Harbour, as well as concerns about the impact on human health of air emissions from the experimental chemical plant.

The Newfoundland Government has asked VBNC to provide clarifications, additional information, and corrections on a wide range of issues related to the proposed project’s waste disposal, impacts on marine life, compensation to fishers and aquaculture operators, and the cumulative effects of the project, among others.

The processing plant was scoped as a “screening level” environmental assessment, which has the lowest level of requirements for independent expert assessment and public consultation. This in spite of the fact that the project would mean the permanent destruction of an entire lake ecosystem to dispose of its toxic waste.

“A project of this size, with multiple potentially serious impacts on local ecosystems and on human health, should have gone to a panel review,” says Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada. “A panel review would have assured wider public participation, as well as the participation of a wide range of independent experts,” says Coumans, “rather than relying solely on the company’s consultants for information.”

Given the list of concerns the Newfoundland Government has raised regarding the existing EIS as well as the public concern that has been expressed, this project should now be referred to a panel review. Under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, a federal screening-level assessment may be referred to a panel if either the responsible authority or the Minister of Environment is of the opinion that: (1) a project may cause significant adverse environmental effects, or that (2) public concerns warrant a referral.

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For more information contact Catherine Coumans: tel 613-569-3439; e-mail catherine(at)miningwatch.ca