Complaints of uncovered stockpiles of bauxite ore at Picton Terminals were sent to Council, Quinte Conservation, and the Ministry of the Environment this week.
The stockpiles are reportedly the size of a football field, and in plain sight at the port on Picton Bay. Bauxite is considered hazardous. It is toxic if touched, inhaled, or ingested. Special equipment must be worn to handle it.
The bauxite was unloaded on November 12 from a 200m long bulk cargo carrier, the Federal Welland. It sails under the flag of the Marshall Islands and was in the port at Picton for three days to unload. It had been in Gibraltar, Spain and Istanbul, Turkey before it arrived.
A call to the Terminals elicited the comment that it was fine to store bauxite uncovered. Further questions went unanswered.
A further complaint was registered by the County Conservancy on November 24 concerning gypsum unloaded from a cargo ship at the terminals in high winds and therefore at risk of spreading dust and leaching into groundwater.
“Once again, Picton Terminals has proved that they are incapable of handling materials properly. They are currently in the process of unloading gypsum on an extremely windy day. There is a huge cloud of gypsum dust being carried into the Bay and onto surrounding properties,” reported Leslie Stewart.
“Two issues arise when they perch toxic materials like this on the edge of the cliff,” said Councillor John Hirsch, responding to complaints about the bauxite. “Wind blows dry material to other properties, and rain leaches material down into the lake as there is no stormwater system in place at the Terminals.”
“They have been charged in the past for the windblown issue and orders have been made by MECP that they must cover the piles. The picture says everything,” said the Councillor.
“Reckless is the word I would use to describe their approach to environmental concerns.”
“Bauxite certainly is not supposed be stored uncovered when it is adjacent to the local drinking water supply,” said Ms. Stewart. “There are health risks associated with bauxite and all the guidance about storage suggests that it be ‘locked up’ and stored in a dry area. Environmental precautions are to avoid runoff to waterways.”
“To the best of our knowledge, Picton Terminals has still not completed the storm and wastewater management works that the MECP requires for the safe storage of pollutants. The heavy rain last week could very well have created runoff of contaminated water,” continued Ms. Stewart.
In March 2020, the Terminals, which is owned by ABNA Investments, was ordered to build stormwater mitigation works. It was granted an Environmental Compliance Approval by MECP to create stormwater management structures to provide for the safe storage of pollutants.
That permit expired three years later, in March 2023, with the structures still not built. The port has applied for an amendment, currently under review.
Bauxite is the primary ore used to make aluminum. There are no bauxite mines in Canada. The country’s refineries and smelters use bauxite ore imported from other countries. Aluminum is produced by separating pure alumina from bauxite in a refinery.
Transport is part of the environmental and social impact of the mining of bauxite ore, which is moved by road, rail, pipeline, ship, or a combination of these.