Environmental groups applaud long-awaited plan to clean up one of Ontario's most contaminated sites
DELORO, ON - The Ontario Ministry of Environment announced today that it will be spending more than $30 million dollars to cleanup the abandoned Deloro mine site, one of Ontario's most contaminated sites. Located in the Town of Deloro, north of Bellville, the 202 hectare abandoned mine site is contaminated with radioactive materials, arsenic, cobalt, copper, nickel, and several other toxic compounds. The site discharges its pollutants directly into the Moira River, ultimately flowing into Lake Ontario. The provincial government took responsibility for the site in 1979 and today?s announced plan will involve isolating the contamination on site so as to reduce its impact on the surrounding environment.
It is great to finally see the province make a strong commitment to clean up the Deloro site, says Sierra Legal staff scientist Dr. Elaine MacDonald. Minister Dombrowsky should be congratulated for taking action to ensure the remediation of this site. We hope that the government will make similar efforts to deal with the estimated 6,000 other abandoned mine sites in Ontario.
On behalf of private informant Janet Fletcher, Sierra Legal lawyers laid charges against the MOE in 1997 for alleged violations of federal and provincial laws regarding pollution from the site. The case was concluded in 2001 and highlighted many of the environmental problems that the provinces remediation plan must deal with.
The local citizens are being rewarded for their perseverance,? says Mark Mattson of Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, an investigator and co-counsel on the 1997 charges. ?Their commitment to this site over the last decade gave us this cleanup plan. The province should now set the clean-up funds aside in a bond, so its commitment to restoring the Moira River will always be honoured.
The long wait for a clean up at Deloro highlights the scientific and political complexity of remediating abandoned mine sites. Unfortunately, recent changes to the provincial Mining Act further weakened requirements that could have ensured that mining companies would be fully accountable in advance for possible clean up costs of their operations.
This is another good environmental initiative by this government and Minister Dombrowsky?, says Sierra Legal staff lawyer Rob Wright. ?However, it is also a case of the disappearing polluter leaving the taxpayers holding the bag. This should be a message to government that the gaping loopholes in the Mining Act regarding corporate financial assurances for mine closures need to be closed.
A 2002 report by Mining Watch and Pembina Institute estimated that mining activities in Ontario have already left taxpayers on the hook for a potential liability of more than $900 million.
For further information please contact:
Lake Ontario Waterkeeper :
Mark Mattson, President & Waterkeeper (416) 666-8961
Sierra Legal Defence Fund:
Dr. Elaine MacDonald, Staff Scientist (416) 368-7533 ext. 27
Robert Wright, Senior Counsel (416) 368-7533 ext. 31