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Industry proposal to treat and release tailings pond waters into the Athabasca River

25 August 2022

The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, MP, Minister of Environment and Climate Change
The Honourable Patricia Hajdu, MP. Minister of Indigenous Services
The Honourable Marc Miller, MP, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations,
The Honourable Daniel Vandal, MP, Minister of Northern Affairs,
House of Commons, Ottawa, Canada

Dear Ministers Guilbeault, Hajdu, Miller, and Vandal,
The Canadian Association for the Club of Rome has become aware that the Government of Canada is considering an industry proposal to treat and release tailings pond waters into the Athabasca River.
On behalf of residents in the region, especially those downstream, and because there is a very real danger that any plan to release pond waters would not be able to prevent contaminants from being released to the Athabasca River, we urge you to reject this proposal.
Tailings pond waters and sediments contain many substances deleterious to fish and other organisms (including people): naphthenic acids, ammonia, benzene, cyanide, oil and grease, phenols, toluene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, arsenic, and other heavy metals.
Unfortunately, there are no proven technologies capable of purifying highly contaminated water to the point where it is a safe medium in which to be constantly immersed (aquatic organisms) or to consume (terrestrial organisms, including people).
An alternate approach is to treat the pond waters sufficiently for reuse in on-going bitumen
extraction—for as long as that continues in the face of climate change. All withdrawals from the Athabasca River and the local groundwater could then be stopped.
In addition, research on how to treat the water to drinking water quality should be prioritized and funded, primarily by industry.
Our country has begun the process of reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. As such, we cannot afford to make the Athabasca Region uninhabitable for Indigenous Peoples and all future generations.
Most sincerely,

Jean Dougherty – Chair, The Canadian Association for the Club of Rome (CACOR)
[email protected]

cc: The Prime Minister, all Cabinet members, all MPs and Senate members, and media contacts.
View this letter in PDF format.
The Association is a charitable, non-governmental organization dedicated to intelligent debate and action on global issues. It is incorporated as the Canadian Association for the Club of Rome / Association Canadienne pour le club de Rome. Our Mission is to actively engage the public and decision-makers on key global and Canadian issues by encouraging the sharing of information; we aim to inform and motivate all to take action to limit, stabilize, and reverse demands on local and global ecosystems.

Charitable number 889056271 RR0001