Environment Canada obtained the largest environmental penalty ever imposed in Canada for breaches of the Fisheries Act and Metal Mining Effluent Regulations by a mining company: $7,500,000. The breaches occurred in 2011 and earlier under the old Fisheries Act, before massive changes to the law in 2012.
Bloom Lake General Partner Limited pleaded guilty to 45 charges, resulting from several incidents including the breach of a tailings pond dam. The Bloom Lake mine site released large amounts of water pollution (non-compliant mining effluent and ferric sulfate) into fish-bearing water in Quebec, and failed to comply with an Inspector’s Direction. Bloom Lake is a subsidiary of Cliffs Natural Resources, which has since pulled out of mining in Canada.
Of the $7.5 million, $6.83 million will be directed to the Environmental Damages Fund, representing the largest ever financial contribution to the Fund. The Fund uses penalties imposed on those who cause environmental damage or harm to wildlife to support local projects that benefit the natural environment.
On September 7, 2011, Environment Canada began an investigation into a number of infractions linked to the failure to take measures as directed, after an Inspector’s Direction was issued in 2010 for the Bloom Lake mine site. (Environment Canada used to have more staff devoted to Fisheries enforcement.)
The investigation also covered other infractions over four years, including a major breach of the Triangle Tailings Pond dam and a separate release of 14,500 litres of ferric sulfate into water frequented by fish. On a number of occasions, the company did not inform the Department of releases and failed to take samples and conduct analyses as required under the Metal Mining Effluent regulations.
The Triangle Tailings Pond Dam breach allowed water and mine tailings to be released into the environment for almost seven days until the breach was repaired. More than 200,000 cubic meters of pollution (deleterious materials) were released into fish-bearing waters.