Rio Tinto Alcan Inc. ordered to pay $500,000 for violating the Fisheries Act

News release

September 26, 2023 – Saguenay, Quebec

Canadians value clean water and a sustainable environment. Enforcement officers at Environment and Climate Change Canada work to verify that individuals and businesses comply with laws and regulations that protect Canada’s natural environment.

On September 25, 2023, Rio Tinto Alcan Inc. was ordered by the Court of Québec to pay a fine of $500,000, after pleading guilty to one count of violating the Fisheries Act. The conviction is related to the release of a deleterious, or harmful substance in September 2019. The fine will be paid into the Government of Canada’s Environmental Damages Fund and will support environmental restoration and wildlife and habitat conservation projects.

On September 17, 2019, a deleterious substance spill occurred following the failure of a boiler at Rio Tinto Alcan Inc.’s Arvida factory in Saguenay, Quebec. To cool down the equipment for the repair work, it was sprayed with water. The water from the sprinklers then flowed into a drainage system that empties into the Saguenay River. Rio Tinto Alcan Inc. took steps to stop the flow. However, 351.3m3 of water with a pH level between 4.6 and 5.5 (acidic) was discharged into the Saguenay River.

The deposit of a deleterious substance, such as water with an acidic pH, in water which is frequented by fish is an offence under subsection 36(3) of the Fisheries Act.

As a result of this conviction, the company’s name will be added to the Environmental Offenders Registry. The Registry contains information on convictions of businesses registered for offences committed under federal environmental laws.

Environment and Climate Change Canada has created a free subscription service to help Canadians stay current with what the Government of Canada is doing to protect our natural environment.

Quick facts

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada is responsible for the administration and enforcement of the pollution prevention provisions of the Fisheries Act, which prohibit the deposit of deleterious substances into waters frequented by fish.

  • The water of the Saguenay River is home to fish, as defined in the Fisheries Act. The river water contains several species of fish, such as cod, smelt, and sturgeon.

  • The spilled water had a low acidic pH, which is known to be harmful to fish.

  • Created in 1995, the Environmental Damages Fund is a Government of Canada program managed by Environment and Climate Change Canada. The Fund helps ensure that court-awarded penalties are used to repair environmental damage or benefit the environment. The Fund receives and redirects the money from court penalties and settlements and aims to invest in areas where the environmental damage occurred.

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