Horne Foundry: Abitibi could do without it, says Richard Desjardins

When he talks about the Horne Foundry, formerly Noranda, many memories come to mind of Abitibi’s most famous child, singer-songwriter Richard Desjardins.

• Also read: Horne Foundry: “The people of Rouyn-Noranda don’t want us to close the shop,” says Legault

• Also read: Cancer in Rouyn: Dr. Arruda denies having any hidden information

• Also read: Quebec wants to help Glencore pollute less

“When I was little, I thought clouds were made by factory chimneys. I wasn’t alone, that’s what the parents said to their children,” says the poet in an interview The newspaper.

The lyrics to the song And I slept in my tank by Richard Desjardins were immortalized as graffiti on this wall of a building in the Notre-Dame district next to the foundry.

Photo Olivier Bourque

The lyrics to the song And I slept in my tank by Richard Desjardins were immortalized as graffiti on this wall of a building in the Notre-Dame district next to the foundry.

In the Notre-Dame neighborhood where Desjardins was born in 1948, children knew full well they had to hide when the factory next door spewed its toxic clouds towards the city.

“As soon as there was one hurry up of brimstone, we garroched among the galleries. We choked. We stopped them Game Ice Hockey. We went home. It was a puff that enveloped the whole city,” Desjardins recalls.

For citizens living near the factory, the tragedy was seeing “puffs of smoke” changing the color of their car, a powerful scene in the documentary Noranda (1984), in which Desjardins provided the narration and music.

“It lifted the paint off the tanks. Had to take it to the garage. They repainted and the guys sent them over invoice straight into the mine,” says the singer.

supporters of the closure

Although the situation in the city and Old Noranda has improved over the past few decades, the toxic emissions are still there.

According to a study, the facility, owned by multinational Glencore, would at times emit airborne concentrations of arsenic – a recognized carcinogen – 67 times the Quebec standard.

For this reason, Desjardins believes that the plant should be put on hold and even shut down altogether, in the interests of citizens’ health. A position that contradicts that of François Legault, who believes that the people of Rouyn do not want the closure.

“Let them close their doors! I’m all for stopping this factory until they solve the problem,” he says.

According to him, the foundry has a much smaller economic impact than before and Rouyn “could do without it”.


“The city has become something other than a mining company. As far as I know, more than 2,000 men worked there 30 to 40 years ago,” he says.

“It’s not today. The city is much more administrative, it is the regional capital of social services, Hydro-Québec is installed, SMEs are much more developed,” lists Desjardins.

“There are 400-500 jobs left now, so it’s possible… Besides, they never paid for the damage they did… You go to Rouyn-Noranda, it’s not funny it’s been a long time,” he complains.

He also believes that the mining industry is pervasive and taking up too much space in Abitibi, limiting the potential for other economic sectors to develop.

“Rouyn wants to expand the city because of the housing shortage, they can’t develop further, that’s all claimant [droits miniers]. They’re not going to put community infrastructure in a place where they’re going to be thrown out because there’s going to be someone who thought of finding a mine,” he explains.

Far from being surprised by the latest revelations

Richard Desjardins is not at all surprised by the headlines surrounding Horne Foundry, formerly Noranda. “It hasn’t changed, it’s a continuation of the same story I’ve known since I was little. Nothing surprises me,” he says.

The facility came to the fore again after Radio-Canada revealed that the release of cancer data in Rouyn-Noranda at the request of the Dright Horacio Arruda, former national director of public health.

The latter defended himself this week, claiming that he had withdrawn an addendum in order to be able to conduct more “robust” studies on lung cancer.

But Richard Desjardins believes the authorities have hesitated enough and that the situation has been known for a very long time.

“Arruda has postponed the study … There is a study that has been postponed for 40 years, we demonstrated it in the film Norandathat the presence of arsenic in the body increases as you get closer to the factory. There is no tolerance for arsenic in the human body. That hasn’t changed,” he said in an interview with emotional The newspaper.

Alarming data

The film Noranda Released in 1984, the work by directors Daniel Corvec and Robert Monderie, narrated by Desjardins himself, takes a look at the consequences of industrial pollution caused by the factory owned by the Bronfman family and the Caisse de dépôt et Placement du Quebec ( CDPQ) at the time.

According to a study reproduced in the film, deaths from respiratory diseases in Rouyn were twice as high among men and three times higher among women than in the Quebec population.

“We had also followed a study of Mount Sinai in New York on the presence of heavy metals. The arsenic levels in the factory rose as you approached the reactor. They also examined 500 workers and found five cases of lung cancer,” Desjardins recalls.

May data shows regional life expectancy in Rouyn-Noranda is lower than elsewhere in Quebec. Babies are also born smaller there than in the rest of Quebec.

More than 20 years after the boreal fault

Singer Richard Desjardins rarely speaks, but his interventions are always noticed. His documentary The Boreal Error who denounced the forest regime in Quebec had triggered a shock wave. This time, the child from Rouyn-Noranda denounces the pollution caused by the Horne foundry. He gave an interview with protocol.

The Horne Foundry has been in operation since 1927 and is located in Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec.

Photo Olivier Bourque

The Horne Foundry has been in operation since 1927 and is located in Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec.


When Richard Desjardins is reminded that the CAQ government wants to help Glencore, which owns Horne Foundry, pollute less, the singer can’t believe it.

“Can’t believe it! Unbelievable,” he said, laughing maliciously. I’ve been trying to calculate the profits of the Noranda company since 1927, I can’t do it… We’re talking billions upon billions… And what did we get here? he wonders.

As of Thursday’s close, the company was worth more than $58 billion, more than Couche-Tard’s market cap.

Despite everything, Business Secretary Pierre Fitzgibbon opened the door to public aid to help the Horne Foundry reduce its arsenic emissions.

“I have had very preliminary discussions with the company to see what they are willing to do and how much money is required,” the minister said. protocol in this week.

The singer-songwriter also wonders about the lasting impact of the presence of a large foundry in Rouyn.

“We weren’t as diverse as Sudbury (another mining town) which is now 150,000 people. It has been a long time since we should have reached 150,000 inhabitants … If we had had a small transformation,” he regrets.


Rene Levesque

Archive photo

Rene Levesque

Throughout the interview, Richard Desjardins recalls his memories of a very popular politician who came to Rouyn-Noranda to meet the workers at the plant. “We went to one with my father meeting by René Lévesque,” he says.

“I remember one thing. René Lévesque said: This company, this gang, he pointed his finger at them, Noranda, we called them Noranda at the time, the rest of them, we will civilize them,” says Desjardins.

He confirms that at the time, the factory workers felt great emotions at Lévesque’s speech.

“I remember very well the audience that was there, it was in the Base At Saint Joseph’s Church, I looked at the men around me and their eyes were wet,” he says.

“It was the first time they were addressed in the same way, that they heard something that was deep in their hearts. What they felt more or less consciously”.


Glencore is a British-Swiss multinational company, which is particularly active in the extraction of raw materials. In Quebec, the Company owns the Horne Foundry, the only copper smelter in Canada established in 1927, the Raglan mine in Nunavik and the CCR copper refinery in Montreal East. The company has just pleaded guilty to corruption charges in Africa.

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