RIO TINTO Alcan may be focused on its smelter modernization project in Kitimat but it also has to contend with allegations of harming fish at its Kemano powerhouse location.
The company has been charged with one count each of harmful alteration of fish habitat and destruction of fish, two violations of the Federal Fisheries Act (FFA), from events at Kemano on April 14, 2011.
The smelter uses hydroelectricity generated at its Kemano power station, which is powered by the waters of the Nechako Reservoir located further to the east.
“Rio Tinto Alcan has been charged under the Fisheries Act relating to an emergency ramp down of the Kemano powerhouse on April 14, 2011,” said Colleen Nyce, a Rio Tinto official in a May 3 statement. “The ramp down was performed by Rio Tinto Alcan at the request of BC Hydro so that BC Hydro could perform an emergency repair on their transmission line system.”
Rio Tinto Alcan has not received the evidence the federal Crown is relying on for these charges, said Nyce.
Agents for the company and for the federal fisheries department made a brief appearance in Terrace court April 30 where another appearance date for next month was set.
“When we receive the proper disclosure of evidence, Rio Tinto Alcan will take the required time to review it and respond appropriately,” Nyce said.
The two alleged violations of the FFA are section 32 and subsection 35(1). Section 32 of the FFA prohibits the unauthorized killing of fish by means other than fishing. This section normally applies to the detonation of explosives in or near water to kill fish.
While subsection 35(1) is a general prohibition of harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat, meaning that any work or undertaking that results in harmful alteration, disruption or destruction is a contravention of this subsection. Penalties for violating subsection 35(1) include fines of up to $1,000,000, up to six months imprisonment, or a combination of both.