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Earlier this month, an Alberta-based mining company, Prairie Mines & Royalty ULC, pleaded guilty to two counts under the Fisheries Act.

The charges related to a dike failure that occurred in October 2013. The dike was used to contain a large volume of waste water containing coal, clay, and sand sediment as well as contaminated water. The waste water was produced at the company’s Obed Mountain Mine.

The breached dike caused over 670 million litres of the waste water to spill into two creeks resulting in impacts to the Athabasca River.

The company was charged with:

  • one count of contravening section 35(1) of the Fisheries Act of carrying on a work, undertaking or activity that resulted in in the harmful alteration or disruption, or the destruction, of fish habitat; and
  • one count of contravening section36(3) of the Fisheries Act for depositing or permitting the deposit of a deleterious substance of any type in water frequented by fish.

The event giving rise to the charges occurred prior to amendments to the Fisheries Act that came into effect in November 2013, significantly altering these provisions.

In addition to the Fisheries Act charges, the company also pleaded guilty to one charge under Alberta’s Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act.

A portion of the fine will be used to create the Alberta East Slopes Fish Habitat and Native Fish Recovery Research Fund, while the bulk of the fine will be paid into the Environmental Damages Fund.

A string of convictions (as we’ve reported relating to logging companies, a refinery operation, pulp and paper mill, and mining company, for example) under the Fisheries Act in recent years has resulted in the issuance of considerable fines.

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