By: David Chambers, Ph.D., P. Geop. This report assesses the tailings dam designs at four mines in B.C. in light of the recommendations of the Mount Polley Expert Panel to examine whether regulatory agencies are applying best available technology to reduce the risk of catastrophic tailings dam failures, and where they aren’t, if changes could be made to do so.

Key Issues: 
Protect Water

Quebec Residents Threaten Lawsuit Over Malartic Open Pit Mine

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Malartic, QC

Earlier this week, local residents affected by the giant Canadian Malartic’s open pit gold mine voted unanimously in favour to move ahead with a class action lawsuit over the impacts the mine has on their property, health, well-being, and overall quality of life.

Montreal-based lawyer, Michel Bélanger, will take the case. Bélanger is a well-known environmental and class action lawyer who has won multiple high-profile cases in Quebec. These include a recent class action suit against tobacco companies, the Ciment St-Laurent case in the early 2000s, the Saguenay dam breach and subsequent flood in the mid-1990s, and, more recently, stopping Transcanada’s project to build a terminal in the heart of fragile beluga habitat.

Bélanger stated that he has rarely seen a case “as clear cut” as the Canadian Malartic open pit mine in terms of documented impacts on local residents.

In operation since 2011, Agnico Eagle and Yamana Gold own the mine, which is not only the largest gold mine in Canada, but the only open pit mine of this size located in an urban area. It blasts and extracts over 150,000 tons of rocks and processes 55,000 tons of ore daily. It disposes of corresponding volumes of mine waste in a nearby tailings facility.

In 2015, Quebec health authorities published two reports highlighting that impacts on this community of 3,500 were greater than anticipated at the outset. In the latest health survey published in September 2015, more than a third of respondents claimed to be significantly affected by the mine operations and wish to leave the town. In neighborhoods closest to the mine (less than 1km), the proportion of people significantly affected is as high as 75% (see full data here).

Dust emissions, ground tremors, air blasts, and noise are the main sources of impacts on local residents. These include stress, anxiety, sleeplessness, and social distress, to name a few, which are also contributing factors to a deterioration of physical health. Some segments of the population experience these impacts more severely or are at greater risk (e.g. people with higher sensitivity to air pollution, noise, or stress; seniors or people already affected with chronic illnesses; infants and children; etc.).

Despite claiming to use best available practices and technologies, the operator is incapable of meeting regulated levels of dust emissions, ground movements, air blasts, and noise. The open pit mine holds the record in the province across all industries, with 171 environmental infractions and over 2000 non-compliances since construction started in 2008 (see attached documents to this blog for more details). But lack of enforcement and pitiful fines in the Quebec Ministry of Environment have failed to compel the company to comply to regulations.

Over 200 households and 5 public institutions had to be relocated prior to digging the initial 2.5km open pit (500 million tons of ore and waste rocks). In 2012-2013, the company agreed to relocate an additional 49 households after local residents complained to be too severely impacted by the mine. Now, the company is seeking a permit to double the size of the mine (3.5km open pit, over 1.0 billion tons of ore and waste rocks). This would mean displacing the main local highway and affecting other neighborhoods. It is possible that the company has further plans to expand that have yet to be revealed.  

Local residents affected by the existing mine and expansion plans want to be relocated and/or compensated for the damages suffered. They also oppose any future mine expansion without further legal and financial guarantees. Residents have formed a committee and nominated their representatives. Together, they represent about 700 households (over 1,000 people, or about a third of the town) in neighborhoods closest to the mine.

Last Fall, they initiated discussions in good faith with the company, but talks failed recently when they realized the company was, in fact, not ready to commit to offering a resettlement and compensation package to a large proportion of those impacted by the mine. Facing a wall, local residents feel there is no more options, but to consider legal actions. A claim for class action is currently in preparation and should be filed in Court by April.

How close is too close?

The Malartic case raise a series of significant questions: Why was mining allowed in the first place in this town? And more so without a formal resettlement and compensation agreement in place beforehand…? What minimal distance, or buffer zone, should be required between a mine and people? Why are we requiring buffer zones up to 1.5km for certain industries, such as wind mill for power generation in Ontario and some European countries, but not for mining?

Clearly, both provincial and federal legislations in Canada are failing to establish needed guidance on this crucial issue.

As of December 2015, the mine had over 8 million ounces of proven and probable gold reserves, for an approximate value of 12 billion US dollars at current market price.


MiningWach Canada and its partner Coalitoin Quebec Meilleure Mine are supporting Malartic community members struggling to defend their rights and well-being - Thank you for your support: donate now 

Malartic Blast
Malartic blasts
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Canadian Malartic Mine, Quebec

Community Centred Health Research and Impacts of Mining on Women in Labrador West (Wabush/Labrador City)

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Labrador City, NL

In 2004, MiningWatch Canada partnered with two women’s groups in the remote mining communities of Wabush and Labrador City (together known as Lab West) to consider the health implications of living in a mining town for community women. The Labrador West Status of Women Council and the Femmes francophones de l’Ouest du Labrador were interested in a community-centred participatory approach to better understand, document and communicate the health concerns of women in Labrador West. MiningWatch Canada was interested in the project because it has been our experience in working with communities affected by mining that it is often women who express health concerns and are motivated to address them.

The primary goals of this project were to stimulate dialogue with and between community women on the perceived impacts of mining on women’s health in Lab West, to document the findings resulting from these discussions, and to present these findings to the community. We adopted the holistic definition of health that is used by the World Health Organization (WHO), looking at health not merely as the absence of disease, but as the complete social, psychological, spiritual and physical well-being of a person, with a focus on the individual’s own views of their well-being.

In preparation for the “Overburdened” project, MiningWatch Canada commissioned CCSG Associates to conduct a review of epidemiological, toxicological, and community-based literature that examines the effects of mining – both toxicological and social – on women’s health. The review found that little is known about the toxicological effects of common mining-related minerals on women’s health throughout the stages of a woman’s life cycle. Nonetheless, physiological conditions specific to women, such as pregnancy and lactation, and to female physiology in aging, may facilitate the release into the blood stream of metals that are stored in bone, causing health problems.

The Lab West women conducted research on the history of mining in the community and sought to identify historical and current studies that track emissions from the mines and assess environmental impacts and worker and community health. They also gathered information from provincial government officials, union representatives and lung and cancer associations in the province. A technical advisory team was established by MiningWatch Canada. A Community Centered Research workshop with Catherine Coumans produced a questionnaire for health professionals and a community interview questionnaire in both official languages. When community interviews were underway, Susan Moodie of CCSG Associates visited Lab West. She provided training on community monitoring and collected water, soil, vegetation and dust samples. Significantly, the mines were both closed due to a strike at this time. The CCSG report and the final reports of the project were launched at a well-attended community meeting in Lab West on February 15, 2005.

Over 40 organizations and individuals, including MiningWatch Canada, submitted comments and recommendations in response to the Proposed Prohibition of Asbestos and Asbestos Products Regulations and Proposed Amendment to the Export of Substances on the Export Control List Regulations under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), 1999.

Key Issues: 
Fix Mining Laws

Guatemalan Constitutional Court Keeps Tahoe Resources Operations Suspended, Orders Presentation of Further Documentation

On Wednesday, the Guatemalan Constitutional Court published a resolution and held a press conference calling for more evidence to be presented as part of the legal process that has temporarily suspended two of Tahoe Resources’ mine licences since July. 

Shuar Indigenous Organization responds to Ecuador Day at PDAC 2018

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The following communiqué from the Shuar Indigenous organization Pueblo Shuar Arutam was presented at a press conference in Quito on Wednesday in response to the presence of Mr. Elvis Nantip, President of the Interprovincial Shuar Federation (FISCH by its initials in Spanish) at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada event in Toronto on Monday.

Many other Indigenous, environmental and human rights organizations in Ecuador have also joined onto this statement, as listed further below. 

Further to this, on Tuesday, the Ecuadorian Federation of Kichwa Peoples (Ecuarunari) submitted a complaint to the General Attorney's office raising concern about the granting a total of 2.9 million hectares in mining concessions from late 2016 through 2017 (equivalent to more than 13% of national territory under mining concession, up from roughly 3% as of early 2016). According to Ecuarunari, these mining concessions threaten protected forests and other fragile ecosystems throughout the highlands, and were granted without the free, prior and informed consent of affected Indigenous peoples and without prior consultation according to environmental rights recognized in Ecuador.

The same complaint points out that current Mines Minister Rebecca Illescas was Vice Minister throughout this period and calls for her to be investigated for perjury and illicit gain based on differences observed between assets she declared to the Comptroller General and property registered in her name in the municipality of Quito.   

Translated from the original in Spanish

The Shuar Arutam People (Pueblo Shuar Arutam) live in the Condor mountain range on the banks of the Zamora, Santiago and Kuankus Rivers in the counties of Gualaquiza, San Juan Bosco, Limón Indanza and Tiwintsa in the province of Morona Santiago and our communities are directly affected by mining activities. In our territory, there are 47 community centres with more than 2,000 families living in an area of 230,000 hectares. The estimated population is 13,000 people. 

Despite our clear opposition to mining on the basis of collective rights enshrined in the Ecuadorian constitution that recognizes Indigenous peoples, in our territory there are mining projects being undertaken in San Carlos Pananza and Warints operated by the companies ExplorCobres (owned by the Chinese consortium CRCC Tongguan) and Canadian company Lowell Copper (now Equinox Gold) respectively. 

The presence of these mining companies on our territory without our prior consent has given rise to serious socio-environmental conflicts. On August 11, 2016, the Shuar community of Nankints was raided by approximately 2,000 military and police who evicted families from their homes at gunpoint, destroying their things, killing their animals and obliging the entire population to leave. The eviction was undertaken without due notice or prior agreements in violation of our right to our ancestral territory and the right to not have Indigenous territories become militarized. According to those affected by this incident, 10 Shuar homes were destroyed in order to build a new mining camp for the workers of ExplorCobres, as well as temporary camps for members of the armed forces, whose role is to protect the project area. This incident has led to a serious deepening of social conflict in the area. 

As a result of such mining conflict, a police officer was unfortunately killed and 10 people were injured by police and members of the Shuar people. As a result, the area was also militarized with war tanks and helicopters, and a state of exception declared in the entire province for 30 days, which was later extended to 60 consecutive days. The declaration of a state of exception meant the suspension of civil and political rights, and as a result, the homes of members of the Pueblo Shuar Arutam and the Interprovincial Federation of Shuar Centres (FISCH by its initials in Spanish) were raided and a number of Indigenous leaders persecuted.

Given this recent history, we are angered to read in the media and on social media that Mr. Elvis Nantip, President of the FISCH, traveled to Toronto, Canada as part of a delegation led by the Mines Minister to promote mining activity on Shuar territory. 

Considering this, we reaffirm the position of the Pueblo Shuar Arutam that has made a decision through its general assembly to oppose large scale mining in our territory. We call upon the national government and the mining companies to not be fooled by the presence of Mr. Nantip; the Shuar communities of the Condor mountain range do not accept the presence of industrial mining activity on their ancestral territories and continue to firmly oppose them. 

We also recall that only the legitimate leadership of the Pueblo Shuar Arutam can serve as its spokespeople in accordance with the mandate issued by the general assembly and the policies of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon (CONFENIAE) and the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE). 


The Governing Council of the Pueblo Shuar Arutam 

With support from: 

Confederación Kichwa del Ecuador (ECUARUNARI)

Comunidad Indígena Amazónica de Acción Social Cordillera del Cóndor

Asociación Shuar Bomboiza

Defensa y Conservación Ecológica de Íntag (DECOIN)

Comité en Defensa de la Vida y los Derechos de la Naturaleza (parroquias Palo Quemado y las Pampas - Cotopaxi)

Parroquias Chical y Maldonado (Carchi)

Coordinadora Cantonal por la Defensa de la Vida, el Agua y la Naturaleza (Cantón Pallatanga - Chimborazo)

Mancomunidad de la Bioregión del Chocó Andino (Calacalí, Nono, Nanegal, Nanegalito, Pacto, Gualea y Mindo)

Frente Provincial por la Defensa de la Pachamama y la Vida (Bolívar)

Federación de Centros Awá del Ecuador y la Gran Familia Awá Binacional

Red de Coordinadora de Organizaciones Sociales del Norte (REDCONE-Esmeraldas)

Federación de Organizaciones Campesinas e Indígenas del Azuay (FOA)

Frente de Defensa del Noroccidente de Pichincha

Asamblea de los Pueblos del Sur (APS)

Observatorio Minero Social y Ambiental del Ecuador (OMASNE)

Yasunidos Guapondélig |Minka Urbana

Colectivo de Geografía Crítica Ecuador

Fundación Cambugán

Grupo Kanaka |Acción Ecológica

Comisión Ecuménica de Derechos Humanos (CEDHU)

Coordinadora Ecuatoriana de Organizaciones para la Defensa del Ambiente y la Naturaleza (CEDENMA)

Pocho Álvarez

Fred Larreátegui

Ecuadorian Minister of Mines Rebeca Illescas at PDAC 2018
Attached files: 

Citizens, Quebec Municipality Denounce $96 Million Suite by Canada Carbon

Canada mining murder in Mexico

A petition filed with public sector integrity commissioner alleges diplomats at the Canadian embassy in Mexico City intervened on behalf of Calgary mining company implicated in the murder of activist Mariano Abarca


Pebble Mine Investment Risk Warning: New Report Examines Hunter Dickinson Track Record

This report examines the Hunter Dickinson family of companies, their track records and current situations, and the implications for the prospects of Northern Dynasty Mining, the company promoting the controversial Pebble mine project in Alaska’s sensitive Bristol Bay. The report labels Northern Dynasty as a highly risky speculative investment, calling its risk levels “unprecedented even among other junior mining companies.”


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