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DOING SOME DIGGING – Environment Canada targets base metals smelters

Every smelter in Canada has spent the last two decades reducing its smokestack emissions. Now the federal governmen...



Every smelter in Canada has spent the last two decades reducing its smokestack emissions. Now the federal government is jumping on a bandwagon that was until now steered by provincial regulators.

Last week ENVIRONMENT CANADA published a regulation that will require base metal smelters and refineries to prepare and implement comprehensive pollution prevention plans. And they must publicly report on how they are doing as defined by an environmental code of practice.

This is the list of plants affected:
– TECK COMINCO’s lead smelter and metallurgical complex in Trail, B.C.;
– INCO LIMITED’s nickel smelters at Sudbury, Ont., and Thompson, Man., and its cobalt refinery in Port Colborne, Ont.;
– FALCONBRIDGE’s nickel smelter near Sudbury, its Kidd copper smelter in Timmins, Ont., its lead smelter at Belledune, N.B., its Horne copper smelter at Rouyn-Noranda, Que., and its CCR copper refinery in Montreal East;
– NORANDA INCOME FUND’s CEZ zinc refinery in Valleyfield, Que.;
– HudBay Minerals Inc.’s plants in Flin Flon, Man.

Curiously, aluminum smelters are not mentioned. Nor are casting and alloying plants although the rule applies to plants that “melt and separate valuable metals from less desirable metals and impurities.”

Environment Canada wishes to reduce the release of sulphur dioxide by 74% and metals such as arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury and nickel by 48% — a laudable goal. Some smelters and refineries are already in compliance. Others have a way to go to meet the 2015 targets set out for them. The regulations may be read in their entirety at //CanadaGazette.gc.ca; click on “Part I, April 29, 2006 “

The ministry notes its rules were written after consultation with industry, provinces and other stakeholders. I can’t believe the mineral industry wants another layer of regulation. Producers will bear the cost of compliance on top of the amount currently spent on meeting provincial requirements. If Environment Canada’s plans duplicate what the provinces do, it is the author of a bad idea.