Only a handful of diamond mining companies are at the forefront when it comes to environment protection, unlike their peers in mining of other metals like gold. And, failure in sustainability reporting is not a new thing for diamond miners. De Beers’ Victor mine has been in the news only to prove this.
The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society’s Wildlands League has taken the diamond industry giant De Beers to court. De Beers Canada Inc has failed to report the mercury and methylmercury levels at the Victor Diamond site in northern Ontario.
“The reason why we are doing it is a violation of the condition of the permit that De Beers has. You have to meet the conditions of your permit. It is not that they just missed one station over one month or a few months or even a year. They missed it over seven years, in five stations out of nine. So it is quite significant,” said Anna Baggio, conservation director at Wildlands League.
Wildlands League alleges in its report that De Beers has been failing to report mercury levels for the creeks near to its Victor Mine, from 2009 to 2016, from five out of nine surface water monitoring stations. They took the company to the court after raising concerns that mercury contamination in the area could be higher than permitted and alerting the province and the company 18 month ago. The league also claims that the process of self-monitoring and reporting on levels of mercury and methylmercury is inefficient.
“We expected Ontario to enforce its own laws. If we can’t rely on Ontario to oversee a single diamond mine, how can we trust it to oversee the many northern infrastructure and mining developments that are on the horizon?” said Trevor Hesselink, Director of Policy and Research, Wildlands League.
Methylmercury is a neurotoxin which can pose threat to humans and aquatic species. It does not get deposited due to mining, but the mining actions stimulate activity of conversion of mercury present in the ecosystem into methylmercury, which then enters the food chain.
According to the De Beers statement, the company has been transparent with its data. While Gary Wheeler spokesperson from Ontario Ministry says that ‘De Beers is subject to strict and detailed terms and conditions surrounding the reporting and monitoring at the mine’.
The region is called Ring of Fire as it promises deposits of minerals in large amount. Though Victor mine is the only diamond mine operating in Ontario, there is potential of at least 15 open pit mines to be built nearby.
Last year, owing to environmental concerns, protests and water license issue De Beers was forced to closed down its fully underground Snap Lake mine. After failing to sell the mine, De Beers is reportedly going to flood the mine in January.