Sherritt International Corporation (Sherritt) pleaded guilty in the Provincial Court of Alberta on October 3, 2017, to three counts of contravening the Fisheries Act. Sherritt was sentenced to pay $1,050,000, of which $995,000 will be directed to the Environmental Damages Fund. As a result of this conviction, the company’s name will be added to the Environmental Offenders Registry.
According to Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), the Coal Valley Mine, which was owned by Sherritt from 2001 to 2014, is an open-pit coal mine located 90 km south of Edson, Alberta. On August 3, 2012, ECCC enforcement officers visited the mine in response to a spill report, and they determined that effluent being deposited from a wastewater pond was deleterious to fish.
The wastewater ponds at the Coal Valley Mine collected surface water that was treated with a chemical flocculant to remove suspended sediment before being discharged. Both suspended sediment and an excess of flocculant can be toxic to fish.
Enforcement officers subsequently issued a direction under the Fisheries Act, which resulted in the deposit being stopped. Further investigation by ECCC determined that there were two previous releases of deleterious effluent from wastewater ponds, on July 27, 2011.
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The releases went into tributaries of the Athabasca River, including the Erith River portions, which are identified by the Government of Alberta as “ecologically significant habitat” for Athabasca rainbow trout, a species at risk.
To read the original press release, visit: www.ec.gc.ca