Wed. Nov. 19, 2003. | Updated at 06:36 AM
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Nov. 17, 2003. 05:32 PM
Adams mine site wins water-removal approval


A company with plans to turn an abandoned mine in northern Ontario into a garbage dump has won tentative permission to pump millions of litres of water a day from the site over the next two years.

Critics immediately accused the new Liberal government of breaking a promise to put an end to the plan to use the Adams mine near Kirkland Lake for trash disposal.

"This is a clear step forward to getting it ready for Toronto's garbage," said New Democrat critic Marilyn Churley, who demanded a full environmental assessment of the project.

"We're very alarmed."

A posting late Friday by the Environment Ministry under the Environmental Bill of Rights shows the company owned by the Cortellucci business family can pump 26 million litres of water a day from the mine's south pit for up to one year.

In the second year, the company will be able to pump eight million litres a day.

"The current application (for a two-year period) is to de-water or pump out the natural water in the south pit and keep it dry so the proponent can do preliminary construction work in the pit," the government posting states.

"This is one of several additional approvals that the proponent must obtain before the site can become operational as a landfill for solid non-hazardous waste."

Environment Minister Leona Dombrowsky was not available to comment, but a spokesman said the government was reviewing its options.

"There's a commitment on behalf of this government that if there is any environmental concerns with respect to the Adams mine, it won't proceed," said John Steele.

Controversy over using the mine for Toronto's garbage has raged at varying levels of intensity for the better part of a decade.

Proponents argue the mine would be a safe place to dispose of Toronto's trash and bring needed jobs to the area.

Environmentalists, area farmers, and native groups have all been highly vocal in their opposition, even resorting to blockades of the area and threatening lawsuits.

Opponents argue the mine will eventually leak, contaminating groundwater and lakes.

The issue appeared put to rest finally in 2000, when, after days of emotional debate, Toronto councillors voted to kill a deal to send the city's trash via train to the mine.

Instead, the city trucks its trash to a landfill in Michigan, which has also provoked controversy and raised the possibility the state may close its borders to Toronto's garbage.

Former Tory environment minister Chris Stockwell was a known proponent of the Adams mine option, and the company owned by Mario Cortellucci has been quietly moving ahead with making the idea a reality.

After last month's provincial election, Natural Resources Minister David Ramsay pledged to put the project "to bed once and for all."

"We've got to kill that project," Ramsay said.

Churley said the Liberals had "trashed their commitment" to keep garbage out of the mine.

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty has said he isn't convinced the project is environmentally sound.

Critics have argued an environmental assessment that previously approved the mine site was a sham under special provisions implemented by the previous Tory government.

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