Canadian mining smelters release 1,045 tonnes of heavy metals into the atmosphere in one year

A new report has revealed that more than 1,000 tonnes of poisonous gases, almost a third of them from a single smelter, were released into Canada’s atmosphere in 1998.

The report released by the NGO Canadian Environmental Defence Fund (CEDF) on 22 January, pointed out that one smelter owned by Inco Ltd, the developed world’s largest nickel miner, in Sudbury, Ontario, released 400 tonnes of heavy metals in 1998, the last year for which figures were available.

Nationally, Inco was the number one emitter of heavy metals, including arsenic, mercury, lead, cadmium and nickel compounds, CEDF said. The company also released nine million tonnes of sulphur dioxide from its facilities in Ontario and Manitoba.

Second on the list of heavy metal polluters, using figures which CEDF says come from the companies themselves, was Noranda Inc, releasing 300 tonnes from facilities in Ontario, Quebec & New Brunswick. Manitoba-based Hudson Bay Mining & Smelting Company Ltd was third on the list with 140 tonnes, followed by Falconbridge Ltd from Ontario. Fifth, with significantly less heavy metal emissions was British Columbia-based Cominco.

“We are challenging the mining industry to take a big step forward by making significant reductions in its emissions of heavy metal poisons,” stated Burkhard Mausberg, Executive Director of CEDF. “These poisons cause cancer, affect the nervous system, and are particularly dangerous to children.We acknowledge that the mining industry has made improvements in reducing emissions of heavy metal poisons. However, a great deal still needs to be done. Moreover, the federal government needs to take a lead in developing tough new standards to protect all Canadians equally across all provinces.”

Inco said it planned to cutback on emissions of toxins at its smelters by 2008, while Noranda said it was trying to cut poisonous gas releases by 50%.


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