Citizens oppose Niocan's proposed niobium mine in Oka, Québec
The people of Oka are campaigning against the development of a niobium mine proposed by Niocan, a Québec company, in their community. A parish vote taken on April 16 overwhelmingly rejected the mine. The Municipality of Oka consultant, Donat Bilodeau, found a disturbing number of problems in his review of the Environmental Impact Statement submitted by Niocan. The total finished product from the mine that is projected by Niocan is just under the amount requiring a full environmental assessment in Québec.
There are many concerns about the mine. The problems with radioactivity and radon gas in the region — already of concern — are likely to increase when the rock is mined and milled, since more surface rock will be exposed to air and water as dust, waste rock piles and tailings.
Oka is an agricultural region and there will be greatly increased dust and traffic during the construction and operation of the mine.
The mine will use a great deal of water in its operations (3500 gallons of water a minute), and the community is worried that this will affect the availability of water to other users.
The extraction of niobium requires many toxic chemicals (1800 kilos to produce 1600 kilos of niobium). Although these will be treated before they are discharged into the environment, the citizens are not convinced that proper care and monitoring will be in place or that they will be transported safely.
The benefits in royalties and taxes are offset by the size of the provincial investment in the mine and infrastructure and the risks of long-term liability for cleanup, even if a closure plan and reclamation security are established. There is no guarantee that any of this money will accrue to the local community or the Kahnasatake First Nation.
For more information, check Okavert's web site at www.geocities.com/herbobec/okavert.html.