A coalition of concerned organizations and citizens is calling on Quebec to immediately stop issuing exploration permits for graphite and lithium deposits in southern Quebec that have exploded in the past 18 months.
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“There is currently a real mining boom that could turn southern Quebec into open pit mines, particularly the Mont-Tremblant region,” says Louis St-Hilaire, spokesman for the Regroupement de protection des lacs de la Petite.-Nation. He is part of the coalition of about 10 organizations calling for a moratorium on those grants, which they see as “messy, without planning and without citizen consultation,” in a letter sent to the government on Thursday.
Since 2016, the year of mining rights reform, the Department of Energy and Natural Resources (MERN) has granted 15,000 mineral exploration titles or claims, with 8,400 in the last 18 months alone (see map).
The holder of a claim has “the exclusive right to search on the property that is the subject of the claim for a period of two years for any mineral substance belonging to the national territory”, with few exceptions, we can read on the MERN website read. Graphite and lithium deposits are popular for making electric car batteries, but other metals are also attractive to investors (cobalt, titanium, niobium).
Not all claims become mines, but exploration operations can arise at any time. Several are already in operation.
“We are not against the development of mining, we want more consultation with the population. That is why we are calling for a moratorium on the granting of mining rights,” explains Ugo Lapointe, founder of the organization Pour que le Québec a mieux MINE.
PHOTO CDM/ELAINE NICOLAS/THE ECHO OF THE NORTH AND THE MIRABEL/AGEMCE QMI
Ugo Lapointe, spokesman for the Québec mieux mine coalition.
He regrets that the government is allowing industry to explore underground near national parks like Mont-Tremblant. Prospecting projects have even been approved in the La Vérendrye nature reserve, where canoe campers gather.
He also points out that the world market is booming and Quebec has impressive underground deposits. Thousands of permits have been obtained because of the ease with which one can obtain a prospecting license – a process that is done online and costs tens of dollars.
“These rights are granted without consulting the affected population,” continues Mr. St-Hilaire, who criticizes the Quebec government for being very vague about its goals.
“The mining industry is the Coalition Avenir Québec’s major industrial project. The equivalent of Robert Bourassa’s Baie-James. But the population is kept away,” he regrets.
“Citizens hear the sound of drills and trucks very close to their property and wonder if they should sell it before it falls in value,” he said protocol David Pharand, the Mayor of Duhamel, in the Outaouais.
When they turn to MERN, they get answers that don’t convince them. “The government is telling us that barely 1% of claims become mines and projects without social acceptance will not go ahead. However, I can tell you that there is no social compatibility here!”