One year after a catastrophic dam breach at the Mount Polley Mine in the interior of British Columbia, the facility has passed the first phase of remediation and resumed operations—with certain restrictions. The August 2014 disaster sent millions of cubic meters of water contaminated with mine waste into the local Hazeltine Creek, which ultimately flows into the Fraser River. Water-use bans were issued for several local towns, and the spill prompted the government to toughen mine permitting requirements. Imperial Metals Corp has completed a "Phase 1" clean-up overseen by the BC Ministry of Environment. The company has supposedly ensured that water entering Quesnel Lake, which Hazeltine Creek flows through on its way to the Fraser, meets provincial quality standards. The provincial government issued the conditional permit allowing the Mount Polley mine to reopen earlier this month. However, the company cannot discharge water until it receives a second conditional permit, likely in the early fall. (Globe & Mail, July 29, 2015; ThinkProgress, Aug. 5, 2014)
Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Aug. 4 announced they have submitted a revised bid claiming over 350 nautical miles of Arctic sea shelf to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS). The country's previous bids in 2001 were rejected for lack of evidence. Under Article 76 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (PDF), Russia now argues it has a right to extend its control up to 350 nautical miles. Canada, Norway, Denmark and the US are also attempting to claim territories in the Arctic. The sea shelf is believed to hold a large amount of oil and gas which Russia estimates could be worth up to $30 trillion.
A group of First Nations activists in northwestern Ontario are walking 125 kilometers of the proposed Energy East pipeline route to demonstrate their opposition to TransCanada's plan to convert the natural gas pipeline to transport oil. The walk began at Eagle Lake First Nation, near Dryden, Ont., on Aug. 3 and is expected to arrive at Shoal Lake 39 First Nation, west of Kenora, Ont. this weekend. The Anishinaabe protesters cite concerns for the region's waters in the event of pipeline leaks, and are calling the cross-country march the "Water Walk." TransCanada on July 29 announced that the company has reached an "engagement" agreement with Grand Council Treaty 3, which represents First Nations in the region. But Treaty 3 Grand Chief Warren White said the agreement does not mean that the Treaty 3 nations support the project, only that the company will "share information and listen to the people." At least one Treaty 3 chief is openly opposed to the pipeline. Shoal Lake 39 First Nation Chief Fawn Wapioke is taking part in the Water Walk. "Water is life," she said in a news release at the start of the walk. "Our Anishinaabe laws and values tell us everything we need to know about Energy East that is why we say no." (CBC, Aug. 5)
A judge for the Alberta Court of Appeal on May 7 ruled that former Guantánamo detainee Omar Khadr can be released on bail while he appeals his US war crimes conviction. According to Justice Myra Bielby, the ruling was based on her belief that there was "no clear evidence there would be irreparable harm if he was released." The judge also rejected arguments made by government lawyers that Khadr's release would damage Canada's foreign relations. He will be required under the terms of his bail to live with his attorney and submit to electronic monitoring and a curfew.
As we noted in September (when the price had just dipped below $100 a barrel), after an initial price shock when ISIS seized northern Iraq, the world oil price has since slumped. It now stands at around $60 a barrel. Recall that way back in late 2001, when the US was invading Afghanistan, it stood at a lowly $11. At that time, we predicted an imminent price shock to jump-start the planned industry expansion—both in the Caspian Basin and here at home, overcoming environmental concerns. Boy, were we right. The price of a barrel first broke the $100 mark in 2008, and has frequently crossed it in the years since then, although it never quite hit the much-feared $200-a-barrel. But now the petro-oligarchs are talking like $100 may be the new $200. Saudi Arabia's oil minister Ali al-Naimi last month answered "we may not" when asked if markets would ever lift prices to $100 again. (CNN, Dec. 23) How much of this are we to believe, and what is really behind the slump?
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and his Western allies charge that Moscow has sent at least 1,000 regular army troops into the two easternmost oblasts of Ukraine, Donetsk and Luhansk, to back up the separatist rebels there. Russia's President Vladimir Putin responds with an outburst of presumably unintentional irony. He compared Kiev's encirclement of rebel-held Donetsk and Luhansk to the 900-day Nazi siege of Leningrad in which 1 million civilians died. Speaking at a pro-Kremlin rally at a lakeside youth camp, he also told supporters—some waving banners bearing his face—that Russia remains a strong nuclear power and therefore "it's best not to mess with us." He added that Russians and Ukrainians "are practically one people"—recalling his recent references to the disputed areas of southeastern Ukraine as "Novorossiya." So, let's get this straight... he accuses his enemies of being like the Nazis while enouraging a fascistic personality cult around his own leadership, while making claims to the territory of a neighboring country on ethno-nationalist grounds, and while threatening use of nuclear weapons. This is another example of what we call the Paradoxical Anti-Fascist Rhetoric of Contemporary Crypto-Fascism. Although in Putin's case, it is barely crypto.
First nations across British Columbia are celebrating a unanimous ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada on June 26 that recognizes aboriginal title to their traditional territories outside reserves. The court upheld the Tsilhqot'in Nation's claim to lands in the Nemiah Valley, some 160 miles north of Vancouver, rejecting the provincial government's argument that aboriginal title should be restricted to actual settlement sites and other places frequently occupied by semi-nomadic native peoples. Joe Alphonse, chief of the Tsilhqot'in Nation, said the ruling is a victory in a struggle that had its roots in deadly conflict with a wave of Gold Rush settlers during the 1860s. He said the communities need more control over resources to support more people living on reserves. "We didn't fight in this case to separate from Canada," Alphonse told a news conference in Vancouver. "We fought in this case to get recognized, to be treated as equals in a meaningful way."
An unknown number of miners—perhaps as many as 40—were buried alive as an illegal gold mine collapsed late on the night of April 30 at El Palmar, in Colombia's southern department of Cauca. Local campesinos spent May Day volunteering with Santander de Quilichao municipal brigades in a desperate effort to unearth the victims—none of whom are believed to survive. Thus far, only three bodies have been recovered, according to local Red Cross workers. Local residents said the "owners" of the mine were able to escape, but it is still unlcear exactly who they are.