Con to cough up $50,000
Mining company pleads guilty to violating water licence

by Derek Neary
Northern News Services

NNSL (Jan 30/98) - Miramar Con mine was fined a total of $3,000 in territorial court Wednesday for polluting Yellowknife Bay.

The company also must spend another $47,000 on scientific research on the effects cyanide pollution in Yellowknife Bay.

Con's lawyers pleaded guilty to two charges of violating the terms of the mine's territorial water licence.

One charge stems from an incident over the Easter weekend of 1996, when 9,000 cubic metres of cyanide-laced water was discharged into a creek that runs into Yellowknife Bay.

The environmental technician who would normally conduct tests during such a procedure was off for the weekend. Another plant operator mistakenly released the water.

"We can't establish what, if any harm, took place to the environment," Crown prosecutor Alan Regel told the court.

The other charge involved the use of freeboards that didn't meet required standards of length. Freeboards help to prevent wastewater from overflowing. Unusually heavy spring rains nearly caused the wastewater to spill over.

Subsequent tests of the wastewater showed average readings of 1.96 milligrams of cyanide per litre of water. The maximum permit level is

0.8 mg/L and 1.6 mg/L per "grab sample."

Judge Michel Bourassa fined Con $1,000 on the first count for the freeboard charge and $2,000 for the cyanide-contaminated spill.

Bourassa also ordered Con to set aside $47,000 on research on the effects of its cyanide pollution in Yellowknife Bay.

Both Con's lawyer and Regel suggested forwarding the money to the West Kitikmeot/Slave study, which is preparing baseline data on Central Arctic ecosystems, but Bourassa rejected the proposal.

He said the study should be focused exclusively on the local effects of the pollution. As a result he ordered the money held in trust until an appropriate research organization can be found.

Bourassa warned that when working at the "edge of standards," disaster is bound to occur. In this case, dealing with a deadly substance such as cyanide, precautions are definitely required, he said.

He added that someone has to be designated to comply with regulations.

The maximum penalty the mine faced was $100,000 per count and a year in jail.