Little explanation for approval of Sudbury copper mine

Image copyright Reuters Image caption Glencore’s Sudbury Copper mine is in ‘full production’

Analysis

Over the weekend, Ontario Environment Minister Rod Phillips approved new mine permits, including one for a huge copper mine in Sudbury, a city that became famous for hundreds of human right violations.

In a statement, Mr Phillips said that he approved the permits to “ensure that all mining projects continue on track, while keeping up with potential changes to standards”.

He also claimed that his approval process was more rigorous than the one used by the previous government.

This is when Glencore’s Sudbury Copper Mine flooded out.

Image copyright Reuters Image caption This is not the Sudbury Sudbury Equitable Mine map that Glencore has used

Mining has been a lucrative industry in Ontario. Mining can be a multi-billion-dollar industry, but it can also create a lot of pollution.

And because of its reliance on electricity, mining often relies on the next generation to supply the power needed to mine and process the ore.

Permits

Mr Phillips’ approval process took less than a week.

On Friday the 27 October, Mr Phillips signed a permit to build the Candelaria mine on the Espanola River. The project, which is jointly owned by Ivanhoe, is expected to create 170 jobs.

Over the weekend, Mr Phillips signed three new permits allowing the construction of the Hudbay Mine and the TSN Capital District, and the CSNT Jagurd Mine. The contracts are worth over $750m and could result in approximately 4,000 jobs.

A full report by Global News documents many of the failures:

Veneers on the guide lines of a drill at the Hudbay Mine can be seen

Photos that follow fine powder all the way to the core of the mining process

Extensive aquifer contamination

Those who know mining and are familiar with the need for thorough planning say it’s sad that this process has taken less than a week and not a month or even a year.

This is not the map shown to the Governor of Ontario’s chief mining inspector – an environmental researcher who played a big role in the fight against potential mine pollution.

Despite repeated requests for proof of the maps, which called for involvement from the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation and Forest Air — a mapping and surveying firm — the map used by the Ministry of Natural Resources remains in the hands of the Ministry of Environment.

The Forest Air & NavGen map is dated 2006

Those who know mining say you can see why the entire project took so little time and so little planning: Forest Air Maps said they found out that the mine had been approved only at the weekend

Forest Air Maps said they located the application in February 2016

Forest Air Maps also called that the mining ministry had not even responded

Forest Air Maps said that in June 2018 the mining ministry submitted a draft of the permit, but sent Forest Air Maps a notice of corrections

This information is publicly available at the Province of Ontario Mines and Energy website.

The company also says that after starting work, it informed local First Nations, the Forest Air Map and Forest Air about the changes to the permit

The current map must be invalid to allow the new one to go through

The ministry did not respond to questions from B&T about why Mr Phillips and the environmental inspector allowed the development to proceed so quickly.

After the Globe and Mail reported on the licence the ministry says it has now suspended mining permits at that facility.

Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, said in September that Ontario’s mine tailings policy should be reviewed to ensure that they are not affecting river water.

The region that sits below the Sudbury mine, on the edge of what is now Northern Ontario, is home to 1.1 million Cree people, almost one-fifth of Canada’s indigenous population.

Aside from zinc and lead, the Sudbury region is home to some of the world’s largest gold mines and is home to uranium, the source of what powers nuclear power.

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