Sad to say, but minerals producers occupy six of the 12 spots on the “Dirty Dozen Air Polluters” list released earlier this month by Environmental Defence and the Canadian Environmental Law Association. Ranked No.1 is INCO LTD. (which released 368.6 million kg of combined pollutants in 2003, the latest year for which statistics are available). The No.2 spot goes to ALCAN INC. (288.3 million kg) and No.5 to HUDSON BAY MINING & SMELTING (now Hudbay Minerals) (168.8 million kg). Farther down the list is No.7 SYNCRUDE (120.7 million kg), No.10 NORANDA (84.7 million kg) and No.11 ALUMINERIE DE BECANCOUR (67.9 million kg). Other companies on the list were Ontario Power Generation (3), Nova Scotia Power (4), SaskPower (6), Transalta Utilities (8), New Brunswick Power (9) and EnCanada Corp. (12).
The rankings are compiled from information reported by the companies to Environment Canada. They are posted on the Pollution Watch website, www.PollutionWatch.org. The numbers may be ranked by province (Alberta is the dirtiest, Yukon the cleanest), companies, individual facilities or postal code (the biggest polluter near my office is Ottawa’s garbage dump). The numbers may also be filtered by health effects.
Be warned, however, that there is a disconnect between historical levels and those reported for 2003. Pollution is measured in kilograms for 2003, and the Copper Cliff smelter complex emitted 169.3 million kg compared to 243.3 million kg in 2002. So far so good, but go back to 2002 and the figure for Copper Cliff is 1.6 million kg. The numbers make no sense.
There is an intrinsic problem with websites such as Pollution Watch. They are aimed at the general public and educators; however, they have no room for feedback from industry. How can the user know that more than 90% of the sulphur naturally occurring in ore is removed prior to the material reaching the Copper Cliff smelter? Where are the year-over-year figures that give a snapshot of whether an industry is getting cleaner or not?
My advice is to take Pollution Watch with a grain of salt until the site provides useful comparative numbers. In the meantime, it remains to individual producers to remind the public each time they improve their environmental record. Don’t count on any other organization to spread anything other than the bad news.