Niobium Mine at Oka Closer to Operation Despite Widespread Protest from Local Residents
On November 25, 2003, the Québec Court rejected the appeal of the Union of Agricultural Producers to the Administrative Tribunal of Québec's decision in favour of Niocan's proposed niobium mine. This rejection comes as a blow to the residents of Oka who, despite widespread concern around this mine, seem to be hitting bureaucratic obstacles.
This mine will have irreversible impacts on the area, whose economy is built on agricultural production. This niobium mine is associated with radioactivity and will be located in the middle of an established agricultural area. Water will be negatively impacted by contamination and lowering of the water table. Two fish species will likely be wiped out, as the company proposes to use the Rousse Creek as a "mixing" zone (dilution is NOT the solution to pollution!). Traces of uranium are found in the soil.
Despite these concerns being potential triggers for environmental assessment, the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans has determined that the "case is closed". The Bureau of Public Audiences on the Environment has concluded that although there is a problem with radioactivity, they would not declare it an issue. The Commission that reviews re-zoning of agricultural lands in Québec also reviewed the decision and decided in favour of the mine. The mayor of Oka is, unfortunately, in favour of the mine.
The final step before Niocan receives the "green light" is an authorization certificate from Minister of the Environment of Québec.
The Citizens' Committee of Oka and the Mohawks of Kanesatake (whose traditional territory will be affected by the mine) have been fighting passionately for a full Environmental Assessment to be conducted by the Québec and the Federal governments, and are greatly disappointed to see the governments' blatant disregard for their wishes.
The mine will be in production for 17 years, and will provide direct employment to 160 people (there are no guarantees of how many people they will hire from the region). There are 155 properties in Oka and St-Joseph-Du-Lac will be affected by the project.
To help the residents of Oka get a full environmental assessment, please write to: the Honourable Thomas Mulcair, Minister of the Environment, Government of Québec, fax (418) 643-4143, or contact mel(at)miningwatch.ca for more information.