Twenty communities in the Outaouais are launching an offensive against graphite mining projects in their region that they fear will affect lakes and the quality of life of residents.
Posted at 5:00 am
From Monday, the slogan “Incompatible with mining activities” will be posted in 21 communes of the MRC of Papineau in Outaouais in support of the Regroupement de protection des lacs de la Petite-Nation (RPLPN), which is leading the charge.
“It’s a steamroller that’s going to go over southern Quebec. We need to regulate before the roller crushes everything,” warns Louis St-Hilaire, spokesman for the RPLPN.
“The Steamroller” is a graphite associated mineral exploration.
This ore, essential for making batteries for electric cars, is vital in the race to electrify Quebec.
In Saint-Michel-des-Saints, in Lanaudière, the Nouveau Monde Graphite open pit mine, whose construction began in the summer of 2021, will soon pull resources from the ground.
Another graphite mine project, La Loutre, located between Duhamel and Lac-des-Plages, is in the exploration drilling phase.
Louis St-Hilaire denounces what he calls “the gold rush at Papineau”, whose subsoil, like elsewhere in the Outaouais, is rich in precious ores.
“The mining project in our area is surrounded by lakes and vast wetlands,” regrets Mr. St-Hilaire.
The prefect of the MRC de Papineau, Benoit Lauzon, adds his voice: “Our citizens are very attached to our territory, dotted with exceptional lakes and waterways. We hear their message very clearly and we share it: under current government rules, our region is incompatible with mining activities,” he responded in a press release.
In addition to the destruction of natural habitats, local authorities fear the effects of such a large-scale project on the quality of life of local residents.
“Our people don’t want to see mining activity 200 meters from their lake,” Duhamel Mayor David Pharand said in an interview The press.
“These are areas that are intended for leisure, for outdoor living. People don’t expect to find an industrial area several kilometers long,” adds Louis St-Hilaire.
Michel Jébrak, emeritus professor of natural resources at UQAM, is not surprised that municipalities are cracking down on these mining projects.
“Such an approach is common in the mineral industry,” notes the mining exploration specialist.
However, the energy transition cannot take place without natural resources.
[Les ressources minérales] always being exploited somewhere. And there will always be repercussions somewhere.
Michel Jébrak, Emeritus Professor of Natural Resources at UQAM
Still, he says, “it’s a matter of collective political responsibility where corporations are only one side of the decision.”
Louis St-Hilaire would like to emphasize this: the campaign is not against the electrification of transport, quite the opposite.
“But the way it’s done now, we’re doing it with laws from the past. […] You have to regulate. We have to protect our waters,” he demands.
A controversial green light
When Mr. St-Hilaire sees what is happening around the Outaouais, he fears the worst.
The Nouveau Monde Graphite mine – which will eventually become the largest graphite mine in the West – continues to divide the community.
The project had received the green light from Quebec in 2021, although certain environmental studies had not yet been completed.
In June, The duty reported that citizens had pledged to conduct self-testing on several waterways near the site, fearing the presence of acid discharges and mine tailings.
For Louis St-Hilaire, an example that clearly shows “that we cannot really trust the government”.
“When we talked [au ministre de l’Énergie et des Ressources naturelles], he listened to us, but we don’t get the feeling that he wants to change anything in there. A laissez-faire attitude prevails on the government side. It’s practically complicity,” denounced the RPLPN spokesman.
Multiplication of mining stocks
What also occupies the municipalities is the “multiplication” of Expectations (Mineral exploration title), says Louis St-Hilaire.
This is because the claimant has the exclusive right to search for mineral substances on properties in the national territory dependent thereon for a period of two years.
“In our community I have zero claims but I see the whole picture in the Outaouais, Lanaudière, Laurentides and I see the problem growing. I fear that once we have mining potential, the claims will multiply on a large scale, which is a concern,” says David Pharand.
To prepare for the arrival of the mining industry, Duhamel Mayor calls for Quebec to grant MRCs more power.
“Give us the tools so we can coexist with the mines,” he pleads.
- 4 million
- Number of batteries Quebec could produce each year with its known reserves of lithium, graphite, nickel and cobalt
Source: Quebec Ministry of Business and Innovation