Environmental audit urges feds to shore up monitoring of mining waste

Canada's environmental watchdog says Environment Canada is properly monitoring the dumping of mining waste into the country's waterways, but is not inspecting potash, coal and oil sands mines as often as it should be.

In an audit report out today, Environment Commissioner Julie Gelfand says potash and coal mines and the oilsands should be subject to more frequent inspections, since they are not authorized to release waste products or effluent that may hurt fish or their habitats.

She also raises concerns about the lower overall number of mine inspections in Ontario, and says the department isn't doing enough reporting about whether mines are in compliance with the rules.

And while Environment Canada says there is high compliance with the regulations that govern the release of pollutants from metal mines, the department was missing complete data for about one-third of the mines in the country.

Environment and Climate Change Canada and Fisheries and Oceans are together responsible for deciding if mine waste can be stored in specific waterways. Zinc, copper, nickel and diamond mines are allowed to release some harmful substances under certain conditions.

Gelfand appears satisfied that the department is monitoring the impact these substances are having on fish and using the data they collect to introduce stricter limits on how much effluent the mines are allowed to release.