Environment Ministry officials are set to begin poring over thousands of objections to their plan to allow the draining of an abandoned northern Ontario mine as a step toward preparing it for use as a garbage dump.
Those opposed to using the Adams mine near Kirkland Lake as a dump say the letters and e-mails are a warning of dissent to come if the project goes ahead.
"Emotions run very high in this district in regard to this issue," Terry Graves of Public Concern Timiskaming said today.
"Certainly, I expect that if the government doesn't do the right thing, there will be actions taken."
Provincial police have already been following up on rumours of imminent highway and rail blockades, he said.
However, there are no plans for any civil disobedience pending the government's decision on the application by Adams Mine Rail Haul, said Graves from Haileybury, south of the mine.
Draining the mine pit would allow the consortium to begin preparing the site for a dump.
The advocacy group said it had collected and forwarded 18,000 letters and another 6,000 e-mails to the ministry in response to a government request in November for comments on the proposal by a business consortium to pump millions of litres of water a day from the dump. An unknown number of them were copies of 60 different form letters.
Ministry officials estimated they had received more than 10,000 responses as of the closing date for submissions but said delivery of some may have been delayed by the holiday season.
"We have to review each and every one of them," said John Steele, a spokesman for the Environment Ministry.
"What we're looking for is quality rather than quantity."
Some proposed projects have drawn as many as 60,000-70,000 responses, he noted.
Proponents argue the mine would be a safe and much needed place for Toronto to dump its trash, create badly needed jobs in the area, and help ensure survival of a vital north-south rail link.
Critics, including area dairy farmers and First Nations, argue the dump would leak a toxic brew that would contaminate groundwater.
Environment Minister Leona Dombrowsky said in an interview today that she wasn't overly concerned that the consortium would sue if the permit to take water from the mine was denied in light of any new information that has come forward.
"This is about protecting the environment," she said.
"If I'm going to get sued, I'd rather get sued for doing the right thing than the wrong thing."
Premier Dalton McGuinty has said a full environmental assessment and approval of area residents would be needed.
Graves said the Liberal government should have "shut the thing down immediately."
Even if the water permit is granted, further approvals are needed and any final go-ahead is at least a couple of years away.
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