Independent monitoring & reporting needed, says environmental not for profit
Toronto – An investigation into one of world’s highest quality producing diamond mines has found failures in self-monitoring raising troubling concerns about entrusting the company to protect the environment in which it operates –one of world’s largest wetlands and the wildlife it supports. In a report being released today on the De Beers Victor Diamond mine, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society’s Wildlands League is asking the government of Ontario to engage an independent third party to take over monitoring at the mine to restore the integrity and credibility of the program.
Titled Nothing to see here: failures of self-monitoring and reporting at the De Beers Victor Diamond Mine in Canada, it is the first report of its kind by an environmental not-for-profit in Canada that provides a detailed analysis of persistent reporting failures associated with a mine.
“De Beers has failed to report on 5 out of 9 surface water monitoring stations, a mandatory requirement of its permit, for the last 7 years,” said Trevor Hesselink, Director of Policy and Research for CPAWS Wildlands League and lead author of the special report. “To compound matters, it is the downstream mercury samples that are not being reported,” Hesselink added. These are just a few of the many critical problems revealed over the course of the 18 month investigation.
The mine’s activities trigger adverse impacts on the environment by stimulating mercury conversion to methylmercury. Methylmercury, a neurotoxin, is a dangerous threat to aquatic life as it biomagnifies up the food chain into top predator fish. “Unreported data from one of the downstream stations shared with us by a concerned party, shows a tripling of methylmercury,” Hesselink said. “These increases are particularly alarming in the context of a river system in which the fish already exceed safe guidelines for eating and Indigenous people rely on fish as a country food.”
The Victor mine is the first of potentially 16 industrial intrusions into the Hudson Bay Lowland—a vast wetland containing expansive bog and fen complexes that hold globally significant carbon stores in peat accumulated over millennia. Victor opened in 2008 and has an expected mine life of 10 years. De Beers has signaled an interest in digging the pit deeper to extend the mine life and digging another pit to bring the ore back to the Victor site for processing. In either case, the lands and waters near the Victor mine site will be under additional pressures and a robust and reliable monitoring program will be needed.
“The public needs confidence that the Victor mine and any potential future projects are properly assessed and monitored,” says Janet Sumner Executive Director for CPAWS Wildlands. “Our investigation shows us that isn’t happening,” Sumner stated.
CPAWS Wildlands is also concerned that the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change largely failed to pick up the problems with the self-monitoring program by DeBeers. “If the Ministry is struggling with oversight of one mine, what can the public expect if multiple diamond mines, the Ring of Fire and other development interests get underway as promised?” Sumner said.
To restore the integrity and credibility of this monitoring program, CPAWS Wildlands League calls on the province to take four emergency actions:
(1) stop relying on the existing self-monitoring and establish independent monitoring and reporting;
(2) recover the full suite of monitoring data, especially all downstream data;
(3) review the monitoring program and provide additional monitoring intensity for Granny Creeks which run past the mine; and,
(4) remove barriers to information and ensure public access to required performance monitoring.
See the full CPAWS Wildlands’ special report and background materials at: http://wildlandsleague.org/victor-report/.
The Executive Summary is also available on our website in French, Cree and OjiCree.
High res images from the report are also available upon request.
For interviews, contact: Anna Baggio, Director, Conservation Planning 416-453-3285 mobile or by email anna (insert at symbol) wildlandsleague.org.
Wildlands League is a not for profit conservation organization in Ontario, Canada and a chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. Learn more about us at www.wildlandsleague.org.