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Bloom Lake: the federal government urged not to rush a decision and to demand an alternative solution to save lakes condemned to becoming mining waste bins

Mine du lac Bloom

PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Sept-Îles, Quebec, Montreal – February 21, 2023. Without calling into question the importance of the Bloom Lake mine for the town of Fermont and the Innu communities, eleven regional and national organizations as well as three people from Mani-utenam and Moisie are asking the federal minister of environment Steven Guilbeault not to authorize the destruction of lakes to store mining residues and waste rock in Fermont, as proposed by Ore iron Quebec (MFQ). Instead, they are asking the federal government to require the implementation of an alternative solution that minimizes the environmental footprint by sparing threatened lakes. They also ask that the federal decision be suspended while a request for access to crucial information is processed. This request comes the day before the opening of public consultations of Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) on the federal assessment of alternatives and the fish habitat compensation plan for the Bloom Lake mine expansion project to be held on February 21 and 23 , respectively in Fermont then in Sept-Îles by offering remote participation. 

The organizations, Laura Fontaine, Marc Fafard and Danielle Descent, condemn that the consultation is looking into the compensatory plan for the possible loss of fish habitat while the Commission of Inquiry of the Bureau d'audiences publique sur l'environnement (BAPE ) estimated two years ago that MFQ could and should develop an alternative solution to avoid the destruction of the lakes.

Together, they call on ECCC not to give in to the developer's economic argument which justifies its plan not to backfill the pit. Any mining project should return its mining waste to the pit, in accordance with the principle enshrined in the Mining Act in section 232.3. 

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forests (MRNF) has issued an opinion stating that the promoter does not have to establish a long-term mining plan in which the profitability of the mineral potential located under the pit would be demonstrated. This opinion strongly encouraged the Ministry of the Environment and the Fight against Climate Change to authorize the destruction of the lakes against the advice of the BAPE. However, the MRNF refuses to reveal the supporting grounds for the opinion it issued, despite a request for access to information sent to it on November 25, 2022 by Fondation Rivières. This information is nevertheless decisive for ECCC and the population consulted to decide on the merits of the alternative solutions and even the compensatory plans proposed by the promoter. Hence the request to suspend ECCC's decision while receiving this information. 

In support of their claim, note:

  • The decision of the Quebec government to sacrifice the lakes was taken against the advice of the BAPE –  In his report, “the commission of inquiry is of the opinion that the initiator has not demonstrated that the solutions adopted for the management of mining waste are those which minimize the impacts on wetlands and water environments […]. Consequently, the commission recommends that the project not be authorized as presented. »
  • No social acceptability for the destruction of lakes and natural environments to store mining waste – A recent Light survey indicates that nearly nine out of 10 people in Quebec (89%) say they are in favor of “prohibiting the discharge of mining waste into any lake, river or sensitive ecological environment”.
  • Thousands of people ask Quebec to reverse its decision and adopt a regulation to prohibit the destruction of lakes by dumping mining waste – To date, 4,212 people have signed a petition asking the government of Quebec to revoke the authorization granted to MFQ to destroy eight lakes to dump its mining waste and to adopt a regulation clearly prohibiting this practice. The petition is an initiative of the Eau Secours organizations and the Coalition Québec Meilleur Mine and remains open for signatures. 

Reminders: 

  • The Bloom Lake iron mine is currently owned by Minerai de Fer Québec, a subsidiary of the Australian multinational Champion Iron. It is a huge open-air iron mine located on the Nitassinan in the administrative region of the Côte-Nord near Fermont. 
  • When it was launched in 2008, the project was supposed to be relatively small. Through decrees and broken promises that there would be no additional expansions, past and present promoters have developed a mega-mine aimed at extracting 16,000,000 tonnes of iron ore per year without proceeding to an overall assessment of the impacts of the project. 
  • Such growth carried out without prior planning or adequate consultation has allowed the developer to now generate hundreds of millions of tonnes of mining waste which now leads him to want to sacrifice eight lakes for storage.
  • The analyzes carried out within the framework of the BAPE demonstrated that the mineral potential that the promoter seeks to preserve has not been quantified in an official technical report. These reserves potential would also come from deposits whose grade is relatively low, compared to the main deposit, and their profitability would be based on unconservative economic forecasts. 

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For information

Marc Fafard, citizen of Moisie, 418-961-3517 

Rébecca Pétrin, Eau Secours, 514-246-9075

André Bélanger, Fondation Rivières, 514-272-2666, ext. 301

Rodrigue Turgeon, Coalition Québec Meilleur Mine and MiningWatch Canada, 819-444-9226 

Signatories

  • Boreal action
  • Quebec Association of Physicians for the Environment (AQME)
  • Environmental education and training research center (UQAM)
  • Quebec Better Look Coalition
  • Danielle Descent, Mani-utenam
  • Emergency Water 
  • Fondation Rivières
  • Laura Fontaine, Innu from Mani-utenam
  • Marc Fafard, citizen of Moisie and spokesperson for Sept-Îles without uranium
  • Mothers at the front 
  • MiningWatch Canada
  • Nature Quebec
  • Manicouagan watershed organization
  • Vigilance Mines Group of Abitibi and Témiscamingue (REVIMAT)
  • Quebec network of environmental groups

Quotes

“With its immense open-air mine on the watershed, we are far from the small, acceptable project that was presented to us in the beginning. Before considering compensation, the federal government must use all its weight to limit the destruction of lakes and the storage of waste in the Moisie River watershed. If this is to be done, the compensation must be local, in the impacted watersheds. This is all the more true since alternative solutions exist and would make it possible to avoid the sole recourse to this compensation, the scope of which will only be limited to net losses of natural environments and will not sufficiently take into account long-term cumulative impacts. term." – Marc Fafard, citizen and spokesperson for uranium-free Sept-Îles

“Faced with the climate emergency and the collapse of biodiversity, governments must prioritize decisions that will have the least impact on water and the environment to avoid passing on the debt of our excesses to future generations” – Rébecca Pétrin, general director of Eau Secours

“The BAPE report is clear and is based on expert opinions. The federal government must take this into account” – André Bélanger, general director of Fondation Rivières

“Before having exhausted all alternative scenarios, it will never be too late to spare the lakes and save the soul of the territory and those of all the people who still believe that saving the planet does not rhyme with destroying it” – Rodrigue Turgeon, spokesperson for the Québec Meilleur Mine coalition and MiningWatch Canada

“The popular will is unanimous, whether expressed in public hearings, by environmental groups, local communities or via national petitions: we do not want our lakes to become mining dumps. » –  Chantal Levert Quebec network of environmental groups

“The plan to sacrifice lakes to maximize the profits of a mining company is not transition, but regression. The old story of uncontrolled environmental destruction in the name of the economy must end now.” – Cyril Frazao, Nature Quebec

“We are no longer in the 19th century. Opening mines and exploiting them to meet the needs of human consumption, while respecting the environment and populations, can still be done. But to forever sacrifice lakes to store mining waste and, at different levels of government, to allow this type of practice worthy of a Western where the law had not yet been written, is simply inconceivable. It’s time to end the “Not In My Pit” syndrome. Champion Iron has the option of backfilling his junk in his own hole: let her do it. » – Henri Jacob, president of Action Boréale

“Reality is critical. We are experiencing a mining boom in Quebec. It is now well demonstrated to what extent the escalation of extractive industrial developments carries multiple negative impacts for the environment and for human health in the short, medium and long term, despite the discourse of contribution to development. We are currently facing a major socio-ecological crisis and extremely serious climatic upheavals which are reaching a point of no return, precisely, among other things, because of this type of industrial development which is constantly increasing. Should we continue to accept these realities as an inevitability to which we have an obligation to find accommodation? Also, is it possible to “compensate” for the destruction of a habitat, a natural environment full of life, rich in biodiversity and which is important for the communities of the region? Can the transformation of a lake, river or other sensitive environment into a toxic waste dump and therefore a source of risks and threats to the health of the environment and the population be compensated? Is this a solution? For who? » – Isabel Orellana, director, Center for research in education relating to the environment and eco-citizenship, UQAM.

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