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TMAC official insists mining company 'did not pollute'

From Alex Buchan, director of community and external relations for TMAC Resources Inc.:

Alex Buchan, director of community and external relations for Kitikmeot gold miner TMAC Resources.
photo courtesy of Alex Buchan

TMAC Resources would like to inform readers of Environment and Climate Change Canada’s (“ECCC”) Oct. 2 press release entitled “Nunavut-based mining company fined for failure to comply with Metal Mining Effluent Regulations” that it contains information that is misleading and factually incorrect. The press release leaves the impression that TMAC polluted. This is untrue.

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The ECCC press release is in reference to actions that took place in 2015. At that time, the Doris Mine was not in production, no mine tailings were being produced, and no tailings were yet deposited into the completed tailings impoundment area (TIA). However, meltwater and rainwater was accumulating inside the TIA and required decanting as a normal part of facility operation.

In its submissions to the Court on sentencing, ECCC acknowledged that one of the key sentencing factors in this case was that there was no proof of actual harm and very little potential for harm given that TMAC sampled, tested and analyzed the water in compliance with its Water Licence prior to discharging it.

TMAC did not pollute. The water discharged met all water quality criteria in TMAC’s Nunavut Water Licence and in Schedule 4 of the Metal Mining Effluent Regulations (MMER, now named MDMER), including 100 per cent survival of species tested for acute lethality.

At all times, TMAC was transparent about the discharges. It reported them in its monthly reports to the Nunavut Water Board (“NWB”), which were available on the NWB's website.

Unfortunately, based on an erroneous understanding of the applicability of the MMER, TMAC did not report the discharges to ECCC and ECCC subsequently determined this was required under the MMER. TMAC's error in not reporting to ECCC was unintentional. TMAC genuinely believed that the MMER reporting requirements had not yet been triggered. Similar discharges of meltwater and rainwater had been made from 2011 to 2014 when ECCC affirmed that reporting of such discharges was not required under the MMER.

TMAC has admitted and will pay a fine of $50,000 for contravening Section 78 of the Fisheries Act that requires that ECCC be informed of a discharge of effluent from a metal mine.

In accepting the plea and the joint submission on sentencing, the Court accepted that TMAC's actions fell just short of the standard of due diligence and rejected the Crown's argument that TMAC was willfully blind to the triggering of the MMER. These are important facts that ECCC has left out of the press release, and did not make it into the Nunavut News story.

ECCC’s press release also makes reference to TMAC being added to the Environmental Offenders Registry. The Environmental Offenders Registry includes offenders that have breached the Pollution Prevention Provisions of the Fisheries Act (section 34 to 43). TMAC pleaded guilty to what is essentially an administrative error in not filing a report with the ECCC. TMAC did not offend any of the Pollution Prevention Provisions of the Fisheries Act.

TMAC has requested that ECCC revise the press release to more accurately reflect the facts as set out in the Agreed Statement of Facts accepted by the Court. TMAC has also requested that ECCC take immediate action to remove the reference to the Environmental Offenders Registry from its press release and to ensure that TMAC is not added to the Environmental Offenders Registry.