Adam’s Mine Update: Northern Citizens CoalitionTakes Dump Decision to Court

Title: Adam’s Mine Update: Northern Citizens CoalitionTakes Dump Decision to Court
Resource Type: Background information
# of Pages: 2
Date authored: September 1998
Author/s: Adams Mine Intervention Coalition
Author Organization: Adams Mine Intervention Coalition

posted on behalf of
The Adams Mine Intervention Coalition
c/o NorthwatchBox 282, North Bay, Ontario

Kirkland Lake – Last month’s cabinet decision to approve a mega-dump in northern Ontario is up in the air again, with the early September announcement by a coalition of farmers, local residents and environmental groups that they are commencing a legal challenge of the dump approval. The Harris government went public in late August with its approval of a proposed mega-dump near Kirkland Lake.

The Adams Mine Intervention Coalition, which was a party in the Environmental Assessment Board hearing, was informed of the government’s decision only through media coverage. “Right down to the manner in which it announced the approval, this government has shown it has no respect for the local residents or local concerns about threats to water quality and loss of livelihood. Government has shown it doesn’t respect Temiskaming District, but there’s got to be some respect for the law – so we’re going to court.” explained Brennain Lloyd, coordinator of Northwatch and a spokesperson for the Coalition.

The 3 person hearing panel issued a split decision on June 19, with 2 of the 3 agreeing to a conditional approval of a proposal to convert an abandoned iron ore mine into a 20 million tonne garbage dump. Final approval could be granted by an MOE bureaucrat, an arrangement which the Adams Mine Intervention Coalition says is against the law. The Coalition has retained the Canadian Environmental Law Association as legal counsel, and will seek a court review of the decision to approve Notre Development’s proposal.

The court action will commence shortly, when the group files its judicial review application with the Ontario Divisional Court. Key among the Coalition’s legal concerns is the attempt of the hearing panel to hand its decision-making responsibilities to a Ministry of the Environment employee.

“The Environmental Assessment Board’s job was to decide whether Notre Development had proven that the dump could be operated safely. When the evidence fell short of that mark, the Board should have rejected the proposal or asked for more evidence. Instead, the Board attempted to delegate its decision to some director in the Ministry to make the actual decision.” explained Joe Muething, a spokesperson for the Coalition.

Legal proceedings could take several months, during which time the Coalition will ask the courts to put an interim halt to the dump’s construction by Notre Development.The Adams Mine Intervention Coalition represented local residents and farmers environmental and social interests during the fast-tracked assessment hearing held earlier this year in Kirkland Lake.

The first hearing held under the considerably modified Environmental Assessment Act, the hearing lasted less than four weeks, and the hearing panel was allowed only one month to review all of the evidence presented and write its final decision. “The scale of the project and its environmental impacts was right off the scales when compared to the speed and superficiality of the hearing” remarked Ambrose Raftis, a local resident who attended every hearing session. “In one evening, the panel heard Notre’s entire case on the gravity drainage phase – this is a part of the project that is going to last more than one thousand years, even by the proponent’s optimistic estimates. It was surreal, to consider how long we will live with the project’s impacts, and then think about how little time was spent examining the project design.”

The panel issued the first split decision in a decade of environmental assessment hearings. The panel’s report offered little comfort to any who had thought that the outcome would be an expert conclusion based on scientific evidence. In fact, the Board clearly waivered in making it decision, seemingly lacking the evidence to approve the project, but perhaps lacking the boldness or will to reject it. “This critical issue…of hydraulic containment…is admittedly difficult to resolve. Both positions (the Adams Mine Intervention Coalition and Notre Development)are supported by pertinent facts and persuasive rationale.

On balance, because of the criticality of this issue (so much is at stake), the Board is inclined to exercise caution.” wrote chair Len Gertler in the Panel’s hearing decision. The panel ordered further test drilling of the rock surrounding the abandoned mine pit, but that’s where their “caution” seemingly ran out. Rather than rejecting the project outright or requiring a re-hearing on the additional information ordered, the Board granted a conditional approval on the narrow technical issues referred to it, and delegated the key decision to a Ministry of the Environment bureaucrat.

The Minister of the Environment then used the approval – overlooking its conditional and inconclusive nature – to grant an environmental approval for the entire project. On September 17, the Adams Mine Intervention Coalition served the Ontario government with court documents, initiating a legal challenge of the e.a. approval. It may take several months for the case to be heard.Throughout Temiskaming District, people are opposed to the landfill for both environmental and social reasons. Some key social and economic concerns:

  • Local farmers in a large area south of the site draw their water from either ground or surface water sources, both of which could be impacted by the dump. Farmers are concerned about declines in the health and productivity of their livestock, about possible impacts on the quality of their products, and about effects on the marketability of their products.
  • The Adams Mine closed operations 3 years ahead of schedule. Many question what connection there may be between the premature mine closure, with 18% of the reserve still in the operating pits, and the proposal to fill the mine with Toronto garbage which surfaced the same year.
  • Properties immediately adjacent to the Adams Mine have shown high mineral potential, and could provide millions of dollars of economic activity and employment for the area if developed. But mines have to pump water, and the Notre design for landfilling the Adams Mine wouldn’t work with water being pumped away from the garbage-filled pits.
  • For the last decade, local industries have been unable to redevelop the Adams Mine property for other uses, such as an expansion by an area forest products company.