Canadian church representatives and Native People will bring to New York, on Thursday, their struggle for a public inquiry into the actions of the Canadian subsidiary of a Connecticut-based multinational corporation.
Amax of Canada has proposed to dump 100 million metric tonnes of tailings from its molybdenum mine, into coastal waters of British Columbia over 26 years. The amount of the tailings, and their toxicity, exceed by thousands of times the amount allowed by federal regulations in Canada. Permission to exceed Government standards was granted by a special Order-in-Council of the Federal Cabinet, without discussion on the floor of Parliament, or in any public inquiry. In addition, there was no prior consultation with the Nishga Tribal Council about the ecological or sociological impact of the action. The Nishga are the Native People of the area who depend on the waters for food and their livelihood.
Several prominent environmental scientists have condemned the dumpings, and a political storm has resulted. In the face of this, the Federal Government has refused to rescind its Order, or to call a public inquiry.
In response to this situation the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada, its highest governing body, at its meetings in June last year, passed a strong resolution, ordering that "...the Primate, urge the Federal Government to withdraw its special order-in-council; that is, the 'Alice Arm Tailings Deposit Regulations, SOR 79-345,' permitting the Amax Corporation to dump its effluent into Alice Arm, and to declare a moratorium upon development of the resource until technology is developed to safely dispose of the tailings."
This has resulted in public meetings, media coverage, a petition to the Federal Government, meetings between the Nishga, Church officials and Amax management, but no public inquiry.
The Church at various levels has purchased 1,004 shares in Amax, and will appear at the Annual Meeting in New York on Thursday at 2:15 p.m. at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel to make intervention on behalf of its concerns and those of the Native People of the area, most of whom are Anglicans (Episcopalians).
The Nishga Tribal Council will hold a Media Conference on:
Two on-land spills of toxic mine tailings in less than a week, surprisingly high support at the Amax annual shareholders' meeting in New York and an interim report from the McInerney Scientific Review Panel which confirms many of the long-range fears of the Nishga Indians, environmental groups and church bodies ... a scenario which developed quickly in the past few days has prompted renewed cries for a public inquiry into the Amax Corporation's mine operation in Kitsault, British Columbia.
Archbishop E.W. Scott, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, has sent another strong request to the Federal Government to "set up a public inquiry...as quickly as possible. In am convinced," the Archbishop continued, "such an inquiry would be in the best interests of the governments concerned, the Amax Company, the Nishga people and the general public."
The Primate's telex was sent on Tuesday, May 12th, to the Prime Minister; the Ministers of the Environment; Federal Fisheries and Oceans; and Indian and Northern Affairs.
The full text of the Archbishop's telex is enclosed.
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For further information, please contact:
Consultant in National Affairs
Richard J. Berryman
Anglican Church of Canada
600 Jarvis Street
Toronto, Ont. M4Y 2J6
May 12, 1981
In the light of the Amax shareholders' action last week in New York whereby 1.5 million shares were voted in favour of our resolution calling for a moratorium and full public inquiry into the Kitsault marine disposal of tailings and a further 16 million abstained; and in the light of national public opinion and the many serious doubts raised by the McInerney interim report which confirms the validity of the fears expressed by the Nishga Tribal Council re the potential damage to marine life and human health, I again urge you to set up a public inquiry under the Public Inquiries Act as quickly as possible. I am convinced such an inquiry would be in the best interests of the governments concerned, the Amax Company, the Nishga people and the general public.
The Amax Corporation has served notice of another potential bomb-shell.
Amax operates the controversial molybdenum mine in Kitsault, British Columbia which was given permission by a Federal Cabinet Order-in-Council, without public hearings, to dump 12,000 metric tons of toxic mine tailings daily into the waters of Alice Arm, BC.
It would appear that Amax is now seeking to receive the same kind of quiet permission, without public scrutiny, to release toxic substances from the mine - this time into the air.
Appearing on page 1502 of the July 30th edition of the British Columbia Gazette is notice of an application by Amax, "to obtain a permit to discharge emissions to atmosphere." It goes on to say that the emissions will contain "arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, mercury and zinc." The notice does say that the levels of these contaminants "will comply with the most stringent pollution control regulations now in effect." It goes on, however, to add, "objectives for molybdenum, nickel, uranium and radium 226 are not available, but emission rates, as tested, are in the same order of magnitude."
The notice declares, "The operating period during which contaminants will be discharged is continuous, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week."
The application points out that "any person who qualifies as an objector" may file an objection within thirty days which means the deadline is August 13th. The notice was published in the midst of the postal strike and, as of August 10th, the copy of the Gazette received at Osgoode Hall in Toronto each month had still not arrived.
The application makes no mention of environmental hazard studies or of any public hearings to assess such hazards. The Nishga Indians who inhabit the surrounding Nass Valley, and will, therefore, live under the Amax cloud, have heard nothing of this application, nor have any public hearings been held in the area.
The General Synod of the Anglican Church, through its Executive Director of Program, the Rev. Clarke Raymond, has sent a telegram of objection asking that no permit be issued until the "environmental impact is assessed by public hearing."