Manitoba Metis Federation Voices Strong Concerns About Impending Contamination of Ruttan Lake and Neighbouring Ecosystems

May 13, 2014

WINNIPEG, MB - The Manitoba Metis Federation (MMF) today announced they have great concerns about the potential for devastating impacts on Metis harvesting by the Ruttan mine reclamation project currently underway near Leaf Rapids Manitoba.

According to the MMF Minister of Environment and Mining, Edward Charrier, “there is a tremendous risk of negative effects to Manitobans as well as our Metis lands and waters and impacts on our hunting, fishing and other cultural activities, should the current problems with the reclamation persist and escalate,” he said. “The Metis have not been part of the process and our concerns have not been addressed.”

The mine closed in 2002 due to depressed mineral markets and record low commodity prices. The tailings and the remaining ore in the open pit produced acid when exposed to oxygen, and must thus be contained to prevent damage to surrounding watersheds and ecosystems. HudBay spent approximately $14 million in an attempt to contain the tailings and contaminated water on site.

In 2002, HudBay estimated that it would be approximately 35 years before the open pit would become completely filled with run-off water and the site would need further remediation. But within 7 years, the Province was notified by the Town of Leaf Rapids that the pit was already dangerously full and remediation needed to begin immediately.

The reclamation work is approximately 1 year behind and there is an impending threat during this year’s spring thaw of the Ruttan open pit water overflowing into Ruttan Lake and neighbouring water bodies, contaminating the lake further, threatening ecosystems that Metis harvesters depend on, and necessitating greater and more expensive reclamation work.

The province must hold reclamation work accountable to the strict timeline to prevent further ecosystem damage, Metis rights impacts, and additional costs. Minister Charrier concludes: “We call upon the province to take the necessary action right away to ensure this work is done properly and immediately and WE PRAY IT’S NOT TOO LATE.”

“According to recent provincial documents released, the Manitoba Government wrongly believes ‘the Metis are at the lowest end of the spectrum in the consultation process,’” Charrier went on to say. “But this is wrong in both history and in law. They can’t pretend that the Metis do not matter. We will not be ignored.”

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