Class-action lawsuit underway against large open-pit mine in Quebec

 More than 200 residents who launched a class-action lawsuit against the operators of a large open-pit mine in Quebec are getting their day in the Quebec Superior Court.

MiningWatch Canada reports that the class-action suit — representing roughly 1,200 people, families and businesses near the Malartic gold mine outside Val d’Or, Que. — started before the Quebec court on Friday, Oct. 27.

The residents are seeking compensation for damages related to dust, noise, and explosions they claim to have been exposed to for years.

The suit, which was filed last year against the mine’s co-owners Agnico Eagle and Yamana Gold, came in response the Quebec government’s decision to extend the mine’s lifespan by another six years despite the ongoing complaints of residents living near the open-pit mine.

In a press release issued Friday, Ugo Lapointe, Canada Program Coordinator for MiningWatch Canada, said, “we are quite concerned about Agnico Eagle and Yamana Gold’s response to this suit. They appear to be willing to spend more money on isolating and wearing out affected community members rather than swiftly and responsibly resolving the conflict through a mediation or arbitration process.”

The case gets underway just days after the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) released a new report concluding Canada has the second-worst mining record in the world. It urged provincial governments and the mining industry to improve safety, accountability and oversight.

The report found Canada had seven known mine tailings spills in the last decade, only one less than China, which had the most in the world.

It estimated that, since 2008, mining waste failures across the world have killed more than 340 people, damaged hundreds of kilometres of waterways, affected drinking water sources, wiped out fish populations, destroyed heritage sites and monuments and jeopardized the livelihoods of many communities.

The Sisson Mine

Residents living in communities near the proposed Sisson Mine in central New Brunswick are likewise concerned about the impact the open-pit mine could have on their communities and the pristine Nashwaak Watershed.

If built, the mine would be one of the largest open-pit mines in the world, located roughly 30 kilometres outside Stanley.  It would have a tailings dam estimated to be 87 metres in height at its deepest point and 8 km in length. By comparison, the Mactaquac dam is about 40 to 50 m in height and 0.5 km long.

The Conservation Council has raised concerns about the impact a tailings dam failure could have on residents in downstream communities such as Stanley, Durham Bridge, Taymouth, Marysville and Fredericton.

While the proposed mine received federal approval in June, the Conservation Council says the project is by no means a done deal, noting that many significant details surrounding the project — such as the specific design of the tailings dam needed to protect the Nashwaak watershed and surrounding communities from toxic mine waste, or who would pay for the costs of replacing drinking water and repairing stream habitat in the event of a leak or breach like we saw at Mt. Polley, B.C. — have yet to be made public.

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