Mining messes

I was naturally more than a little upset to read the article “The Ring of Fire” [Autumn 2010, page 18] which discusses the extent to which mining exploration has already begun in the Ring of Fire area in Ontario. If anyone doesn’t know what damage future mining operations can do without adequate environmental controls, please read The Nation magazine (August 19, 2005) which recounts the difficulty of obtaining information about mining pollution in northern Quebec in the Ouje-Bougoumou area.

Although studies were done by Quebec environment ministry, the Cree people of that area had to enlist the help of an American geologist to obtain the information that is published in The Nation. To quote one of the two American scientists who did some initial testing in 2000 and 2001, “It makes the Love Canal look like a dirty backyard.”

I don’t know how the story has unfolded since then, but the warning that it may eventually cost a whole lot more to clean up toxicity in these water systems than to attempt to moderate the pollution at the start is a story that has already unfolded elsewhere, in the U.S. at Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, in the 1970s and 1980s, and more recently in the Gulf of Mexico.

Both our governments, and the mining and oil industries, have to adjust their attitudes. We need the technology to put in place effective environmental controls, as well as the will to prosecute parties who ignore them. If the fact that BP hasn’t gone bankrupt over the Gulf oil spill cleanup doesn’t reveal how much profit could be diverted into control as you go, then we are really not paying attention to what is going on.

Sarah Trueman, Kingston, Ontario

Fresh air

Kudos for a thoughtful article, “Wind Wars,” on wind turbines [Autumn 2010, page 46]. Anne Bell is exactly right when she says, “the bird and bat mortality at wind farms pales in comparison to the widespread and devastating consequences of society’s continued reliance on fossil fuels.” There is also no comparison between how wind and fossil fuels affect humans. The number of people sickened each year by Ontario coal plants is over 120,000. The number made ill by wind is about 100. (Coal produces more electricity, of course, but even if wind produced as much, it would do orders of magnitude less harm.)

If we want to protect human and animal health, we should close Ontario’s huge coal facilities, whose greenhouse gas emissions are equivalent to those of almost seven million automobiles. In fact, the province has enough coal-free generation capacity to end coal use in the current year – a policy advocated by health groups such as the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, the Ontario Lung Association and the Ontario College of Family Physicians.

Gideon Forman, Toronto, Executive Director, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment

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