MONTREAL — A Quebec mining company has been ordered to pay a fine of $7.5 million after pleading guilty to 45 charges under the federal Fisheries Act.
Environment Canada says the order, issued Dec. 19 in Montreal against Bloom Lake General Partner Ltd., is the largest penalty ever imposed for environmental infractions in Canada.
The company was accused of releasing “non-compliant mining effluent and ferric sulfate” into fish-bearing water and failure to comply with an inspector’s direction in 2010.
Environment Canada said it began an investigation in 2011 into a number of infractions over a four-year period at the mine about 30 kilometres southwest of Labrador City, N.L.
They included the release of hazardous material from a tailings pond breach and a separate release of 14,500 litres of ferric sulfate into water frequented by fish.
The federal agency said on a number of occasions, the company failed to advise the department about the releases, contrary to regulatory requirements, nor did it take samples and conduct analyses as required.
The bulk of the $7.5 million penalty, $6.83 million, will be directed to the Environmental Damages Fund. Environment Canada said this will represent the largest ever financial contribution to the fund.
In late November, the mine’s owner — Cleveland-based Cliffs Natural Resources — said it would being laying off workers at the Bloom Lake mine as it prepared to suspend operations at the site by year-end.
Cliffs earlier said it would exit Eastern Canada amid low iron ore prices after failing to find partners to share the cost of a $1.2-billion expansion required to make the Bloom Lake operation viable.
The Steelworkers union said layoff notices were to be given to about 400 workers in advance of the closure.