Friday, September 19, 2014
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First Nations kept in the dark over massive slurry spill into Athabasca River

By Marty Klinkenberg, Edmonton Journal

EDMONTON - One of two First Nations downstream of Sherritt International’s Obed Mountain coal mine is complaining it has been kept in the dark about the company’s massive leak into the Athabasca River.

Alexis Nakota First Nation Chief Tony Alexis said Tuesday that he has voiced strong concerns with the company and Alberta government because the band has been excluded from conversations related to the implementation of an emergency response plan in the wake of what is thought to be the largest coal slurry spill in Canadian history.

“As stewards of the land and water, it is our obligation and right to be the caretakers and protector of the Athabasca River,” Chief Alexis said.

“We must be consulted to ensure that our environment and people are adequately protected and that this does not happen again.”

On Oct. 31, one billion litres of coal particles, clay, mud, shale and other materials leaked from a containment pond and flowed through trout streams before reaching the Athabasca River.

Now just past the town of Athabasca, the leak is being carried by the current and stretches more than 100 kilometres along the river.

The provincial government announced last week that it warned communities downstream not to draw water from the river but at least one — the Alexander First Nation — says it has never been contacted.

“The next time we hear from the province will be the first,” said Diamond Arcand, a member of the band’s Industrial Relations Corporation. “They said they have been keeping us informed, but the only information we are receiving is through the media.

“To me, it’s very scary and kind of sad.”

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