MARATHON, ON --- May 14, 2010 ---- “Citizens for a Responsible Mine” (CRM) is a group of people centered in Marathon, Ontario who would like to support Marathon PGM Corporation in its efforts to develop and operate a clean, responsible mine. These people welcome the PGM mine into their community AND seek a rigorous environmental assessment of the project in an effort to achieve a mine that benefits the community and respects the natural environment.
The proposed platinum, palladium and copper open pit mine is huge. At approximately 1000 hectares, its footprint is roughly the size of the Town of Marathon. Marathon PGM Corporation projects that approximately 68,612 tonnes of mine rock will be produced daily over 11.4 years for a total of 288 million tonnes. Annual tailings production is projected to be 5.3 million cubic metres. The large scale of the project is such that it triggers the Federal government’s “Major Projects Management Office” tracking process.
Marathon PGM Corporation has proposed only two alternatives for managing, in perpetuity, the enormous quantity of tailings generated over the proposed life of the mine. One of these alternatives, the South Option, involves the loss of 44 ponds and 30 streams. One of the estimated twelve dams required for this option would be approximately 89 meters high – the height of a 27 story building - and half a kilometre wide.
The other proposed option for tailings management, the North Option, involves dumping the tailings directly into Bamoos Lake, destroying all life in this 10,000 year old lake. Presently, Bamoos Lake’s 48 million cubic metres of cold water habitat support highly productive, native, naturally reproducing stocks of lake trout, brook trout and other fishes. Local aboriginal people and other citizens of the area have enjoyed this healthy, safe source of food for generations. Less than than one percent of all lakes in Ontario host Lake Trout.
Most mining companies in Canada do not dump their waste into healthy lakes or rivers. In 2002, the federal Metal Mining Effluent Regulations were amended, under “Schedule 2”, to allow for the exceptional authorization of this practice. Lake dumping of mine waste continues to be illegal in the United States. The proposal by Marathon PGM Corporation to dump tailings directly into Bamoos Lake represents a first for Ontario and for the entire Great Lakes Basin.
The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) has three levels of rigour for reviewing projects. In its submission to the CEAA, Marathon PGM Corporation requested an intermediate level of environmental assessment. Given the size of the project and the scope of its potential impacts on human heath, the environment and the long-term economic well-being of the region, Citizens for a Responsible Mine is petitioning for a more rigorous “Panel Review” that would allow groups from the public to have recognized status in the proceedings and would allow for input from technical experts from outside of government.
The taxpayers of Marathon, Ontario are still dealing with the fallout from the closure of the Marathon Pulp mill site on the shore of Lake Superior. The parent company’s shabby dealings with the (former) mill employees have left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. Mill operations have left Peninsula Harbour, and the remaining aquatic life, heavily contaminated with mercury and PCBs and the multi-million dollar remediation costs have defaulted to the taxpayer. Since the Mill’s closure in 2009, there have been at least five spills involving the toxic waste products from the mill operations. In April of 2010, groundwater on the mill property was found to be contaminated by PCBs. It would be a positive outcome if this experience with the mill moved the community to be supportive but thorough with respect to questioning the operational and closure procedures and financial assurances for the proposed mine.
At the time of writing, there were over 160 members of CRM, many from the nearby Pic River First Nation. The group would like as many people as possible from Marathon, Pic River and the rest of Canada to join the Facebook group and contact the CEAA to press for a thorough panel review of the project. For more information about the citizen group visit http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/group.php?gid=105713186140264