Sherritt fined 1 million for coal mine discharges under the Fisheries Act

CALGARY — The second coal-mining company in four months is being hit with a six-figure penalty for polluting incidents that impacted fish in tributaries of the Athabasca River east of Jasper National Park in Alberta.On Tuesday, Sherritt International Corp. (TSX:S) agreed to pay a fine of $1 million after pleading guilty in provincial court to three counts under the federal Fisheries Act.The Toronto-based company was charged five years ago due to incidents where wastewater considered harmful to fish was allowed to flow from its open pit Coal Valley Mine about 120 kilometres east of Jasper National Park into ecologically significant habitat for rainbow trout.In June, Prairie Mines & Royalty Ltd. — formerly known as Coal Valley Resources — was handed almost $4.5 million in federal and provincial penalties after it also pleaded guilty to polluting tributaries of the Athabasca River.Prairie Mines was charged after a catastrophic break in an earthen berm at its Obed Mountain coal mine about 50 kilometres east of the park allowed an estimated 670 million litres of waste water to escape into the river system in October 2013.Environment and Climate Change Canada said Tuesday the Sherritt charges were laid following an inspection in August 2012 of the coal mine located about 90 kilometres south of the town of Edson.The discharges were ordered halted but the ministry subsequently discovered that two other discharges had occurred in 2011.“The waste water ponds at the Coal Valley Mine collected surface water that was treated with a chemical flocculant to remove suspended sediment before being discharged,” it said in a news release.“Both suspended sediment and an excess of flocculant can be toxic to fish.”Most of the $1-million fine is to be assigned to the ministry’s environmental damages fund to be directed to programs intended to benefit the natural environment.Sherritt investor relations director Joe Racanelli said the company installed new sediment control systems and initiated better management practices after the charges were laid.He said the company is taking responsibility for the discharges even though it sold the coal mine in 2014.“We do not own the Coal Valley Mine but we were operators and owners at the time so we are responsible because there was a non-compliance issue. Sherritt takes these kinds of issues very seriously,” he said.He wouldn’t comment when asked if the amount of the fine was negotiated in return for the guilty plea.Follow @HealingSlowly on Twitter.

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