Quebec-based iron ore mining company ArcelorMittal Canada Inc. has been fined nearly $15 million for 93 offences related to concealing the extent of toxic substances that entered waters near the Moisie River after a dike rupture.
The 2012 incident where the deposits took place involved lakes Saint-Ange and Webb and their tributaries, which flow into the Moisie River, a proposed aquatic reserve and one of the biggest Atlantic salmon rivers in North America.
Investigating the impact of the deposits from the dike breach, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) officials said that they were left with an “inaccurate and altered overview of the situation,” as the mining company made false and misleading statements to the environment officers, in violation of subsection 63(1) of the Fisheries Act.
ArcelorMittal Canada, the Canadian subsidiary of the Luxembourg-based steel giant, had been found guilty in late 2021, but appealed the decision. Ultimately, the court upheld that ArcelorMittal Canada Inc. was found guilty of 93 charges and numbered company partner 7623704 Canada Inc. was found guilty of five charges for violating the Fisheries Act and Metal Mining Effluent Regulations (MMER).
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According to ECCC, the investigation took place at the company’s Mont-Wright mining complex in Fermont, Quebec, which opened in 1974. It uncovered 33 unauthorized deposits out of the normal course of events of toxic substances made in water frequented by fish between May 25, 2011 and May 14, 2013, in violation of subsection 36(3) of the Fisheries Act. The criminal investigation resulted in the filing of charges on July 19, 2017.
Environment officials stated that they used Daphnia magna, a small freshwater crustacean of the suborder Cladocera, as a test organism to determine the impacts of the deposits. According to a statement by ECCC: “These water fleas are sensitive to a broad range of aquatic contaminants and are used in many countries to test toxicity.”
ArcelorMittal Canada Inc. and 7623704 Canada Inc. were also found guilty of failing to conduct the testing required during deposits out of the normal course of events. The firms violated paragraph 14(1)(b) and subsection 17(1) of the MMER. In addition, ArcelorMittal Canada Inc. was found guilty of failing to submit quarterly effluent monitoring reports within the prescribed time frame, in violation of subsection 21(1) of the MMER.
Both companies have been added to the Environmental Offenders Registry.