A merciless fight against the mine

"I don't want to sell, it's my home here.

A merciless fight against the mine

"I don't want to sell, it's my home here. That's why we decided to fight, ”says Daniel Tokateloff, a resident of Lac Taureau for forty years.

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The latter would never have thought that an open-pit graphite mine, the largest in North America, could be set up in the area, a few kilometers from Saint-Michel-des-Saints, inserted between Lanaudière and the Mont-Tremblant park.

“It is a beautiful region. To realize that a mine will destroy and ransack all of this is unacceptable. It takes us to the guts, ”says the one who is part of the Association de protection du lac Taureau, an organization of several citizens who are against the project.

Located in the watershed

This lover of wide open spaces is worried to see this natural and tourist environment transformed and polluted by mining activities.

“This mine is in the watershed of the lake. There are fears that the waste from the mine will go towards the Matawin River which feeds the lake. We also want to prevent an open pit mine from causing the destruction of our region,” he says.

“We don't want our region to become like Malartic. We chose this place for its tranquility, its beauty... There are no chalets around the Malartic pit! “, he continues.

Despite the project that divides the population, Quebec has already given the green light to the graphite mine, an essential ore in the construction of batteries, one of the flagship projects of the CAQ government.

The mine is currently in pre-production and is expected to operate at full capacity from 2025 and generate 100,000 tonnes of graphite.

An embarrassing partner

The Nouveau Monde Graphite company owns the mine. The company is listed on the stock exchange and the main shareholder is Pallinghurst (20.7%) a group associated with several entities registered in tax havens such as the island of Guernsey, which is also denounced by the group of citizens.

Joined by Le Journal, Nouveau Monde Graphite denies having interests in countries with advantageous taxation.

“We do business with Pallinghurst Graphite, we have no interaction with tax havens, our structure is in Quebec with the tax rules in place,” argued Julie Paquet, vice-president of Nouveau Monde Graphite.

Investissement Québec, which is also a 10.4% shareholder in the mine, also defended its partner by saying that the company is registered in the United Kingdom.

“The economic benefits will be major for all of Quebec,” also argued its spokesperson, Isabelle Fontaine.

Encapsulate mine tailings

The mining company says it understands the concerns, but it claims to have acted in an exemplary manner since the discovery of the deposit. In agreement with the community, Nouveau Monde has implemented a process to encapsulate potentially acidic mine tailings.

“These are solutions that exist elsewhere on the planet, we went looking for the best practices,” says Ms. Paquet.

The mining company must also comply with some fifteen recommendations made by the Bureau d'audiences publiques en environnement (BAPE), which has expressed reservations.

"It's not a blank check that we were signed, we are indebted to the government," she says.

We don't believe them

Despite everything, many vacationers have no confidence in the mining company.

"We don't believe them, there is a big stability problem with these mountains of residue, it's experimental, it's never been done in a northern environment. The population of the region will be used as guinea pigs,” laments Mr. Tokateloff.

Nouveau Monde Graphite promises more than 150 jobs for area residents. The mine is located on the unceded territory of the Attikamek community.

“We are in discussions with a view to concluding an impact and benefit agreement,” said Ms. Paquet.

The company has just signed a partnership with Mason Graphite to operate another mine, that of Lac Guéret, nearly 300 km from Baie--Comeau and which enjoys great social acceptability.