The proposed lithium mine Authier, in Abitibi, will be submitted to the BAPE

Le projet de mine de lithium Authier, en Abitibi, sera soumis au BAPE

Photo: Renaud Philippe The Duty
A wetland near the site where the company Sayona Mining plans to mine a deposit of lithium, near La Motte.

The minister of the Environment, Benoit Charette, has finally decided to subject the proposed lithium mine Authier, in Abitibi, a review of the Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE). The australian company leading the project, Sayona, hoped to be able to escape to such a procedure.

The minister revealed on Tuesday that “the results of the analytical work conducted by the staff of his ministry to allow him to “confirm” the liability of the mining project to the evaluation procedure leading to the BAPE.

Depending on what was argued in the cabinet of Mr. Charette by way of a news release, the mining project will indeed have a maximum daily extraction exceeds the threshold of 2000 metric tonnes, according to the criteria established by the Regulation on the assessment and review of impacts on the environment. However, beyond this threshold, any mining project is automatically subject to an assessment of the BAPE.

The project will therefore be the subject of a public consultation on its issues, a study of the impact of the proponent, a period of public information conducted by the BAPE, and an environmental analysis of the ministry of the Environment. A process that the mining has already qualified for ” long and costly “.

Is it that the minister could review its decision if the sponsor decided to reduce the extraction daily under the 2000 tons ? “Nothing lets us presume that the promoter is considering this avenue. However, if it decides to revise its project significantly, the department shall perform a new analysis of liability in function of the operating parameters, which will then be submitted “, replied Tuesday, his press secretary, Louis-Julien Dufresne.

Mine and esker

The mining Sayona, controlled by financial interests in australia, has always wanted to escape to a review conducted by BAPE. She had, moreover, presented its project of open-pit mine in pointing out that the extraction daily reach 1900 tonnes, or just under the critical threshold of 2,000 tonnes.

The company intends to exploit the deposit Authier, located in the municipality of La Motte, 45 kilometres north-west of Val-d’or, in Abitibi-Témiscamingue. The mining of the ore of lithium would be open to the sky over a period of 18 years. The pit would reach more than a kilometer long, 600 meters wide and 200 meters deep. The company also plans to build a hub and two waste rock piles in order to store the tailings.

Environmental groups and citizens of the region are being mobilised for several months to request the holding of a review by the BAPE, fearing that the proposed mine represents a threat to the esker St-Mathieu-Berry, located about 150 meters of the pit. It must be said that the water of this esker, which supplies the region of Amos, and the bottling plant Eska water, has already earned the title of ” best drinking water in the world “.

“The procedure for the assessment and examination of the impacts on the environment, which includes a step-information and public consultation conducted by the BAPE, will allow the population to express themselves and learn. Ultimately, the proponent will be able to submit measures for the protection of the environment likely to ensure the acceptability of its project on social and environmental and economic terms “, said Monday the minister Benoit Charette, by way of a press release.

During the election campaign, the Coalition avenir Québec was committed to request consultations with the BUREAU on this project. However, after the election, the government had said it wanted to take more time to think about it.

Decision hailed

Liberals, pq members and several have responded on Tuesday, welcoming the holding of a review of BAPE, a procedure that they had claimed. “The minister has made us pining for the announcement of the BAPE, even though it should have been automatic according to the law. We will be especially attentive to the following in order to ensure that the recommendations are followed to the letter, ” added the mp solidaire Rouyn-Noranda–Témiscamingue, Émilise Lessard-Therrien.

“Today’s decision sends a clear signal to the industry as a whole : it is not possible to work around the act by presenting projects just below the regulatory limits. It also reminds us of the importance of citizen mobilization to protect the environment and the rights of citizens, ” said the spokesperson for the Coalition pour que le Québec ait meilleure mine, Ugo Lapointe.

“We are pleased that the minister has not given in to the pressure of the mining. Citizen mobilization has borne fruit. It is a very strong signal to the industry : the protection of the environment is not negotiable, ” said Sidney Ribaux, organized by Équiterre.

On the side of Sayona, it was simply said to have taken note of the decision of the government of Quebec. “The communication of the government of Québec and its impacts will be the subject of a careful analysis of the internal and the company will know the time and place the decision that it will take accordingly. By then, she will make no further comment “, is there shown by way of press release.

Sayona Québec, a subsidiary of australian mining, has four lobbyists registered in the registre québécois. Their mandate includes representations to obtain the “permit” necessary for the start of the project Authier, but also to benefit from a “financial support” from the government of Quebec, possibly in the form of ” grants “.