A proposal to establish a “rare earths” mine about 45 kilometres east of Temiscaming, Que., is attracting opposition both online and in the region.
The proposal, still a minimum of two years before the shovels hit the dirt, involves an open pit operation and a mill about eight kilometres from the minesite, according to a spokesman for Matamec Explorations Inc.
“I realize people are concerned” about the project, Claude Brisson, director of regional relations, said Tuesday. “They are concerned about the water quality” of Kipawa Lake.
“I live on the lake.”
Brisson said the open pit is a “small scale project,” with a pit measuring about 1.5 kilometres by 300 metres wide. It is close to Lac Saires (Lake Brennan) north of Maniwaki Road.
The processing plant was moved away from the open pit location, Brisson said, so the nearby waterways, including the Kipawa River, will be protected.
There will also be a tailings site to take the waste from the treated ore. It will also be well away from the waterways, Brisson said, and will be easy to treat.
“What we don’t want, is . . . something that we will have to take care of for a long, long time” after the mine’s projected 15 to 16 years of operation.
But the project still faces a lot of hurdles before it is anywhere near ready to go into operation, Brisson said.
“The most important thing to understand, is the feasibility study will be (completed) in July, and that is when the result of the study will begin coming in.”
Only then, he said, will the proponents of the operation be able to determine if the $380-million is even economically feasible, he said.
If it is determined to be feasible, he said, it must still go through the approval process at both federal and provincial levels, including a series of public forums and meetings throughout the region.
“The public will have opportunities to question the project,” he said. “The population will have plenty of chances to see what the project means.”
Already, he said, a series of public information sessions have been held across the region. The company has also opened an office in the former National Bank building in Temiscaming, Que.
An online petition had already received more than 950 signatures Tuesday afternoon, about a week after it was launched.
Christina Moreau said she is concerned about the project because of the threat it potentially poses to Kipawa Lake and the waterways feeding into it.
Her major concern, she said, is that a lot of residents in the area are not aware of the project.
“There hasn’t been a lot of communication between the government and the lake users,” Moreau said.
She said she learned too late about the last public meeting in April, saying there was “not enough notice” for residents to respond.
Moreau is also concerned that any spills would make their way into Kipawa Lake, and that the mining operation would be using “a lot of fresh water and pumping out effluent into the Kipawa River.
“Kipawa Lake is the headwaters for Lac Temiscaming and the Ottawa River,” she said, adding that “a lot of communities . . . get their drinking water from these water bodies, not just on Kipawa Lake but Kipawa River, Lac Temiscaming and the Ottawa River.”
Kipawa Mayor Norman Young said he is “not against any development if it is studied properly.
“If it fits in, if it doesn’t ruin the environment, I am not against it,” he said.
He also believes residents in the region and users of the resources must be totally informed.
“I think there has been a lack of study” on Kipawa Lake, Young said.
He said Kipawa and other municipalities in the regional municipality are in the process of setting up a committee to study all aspects of the lake.
Among the minerals the Matamec plan expects to extract are “rare earth” minerals used in everyday electronics and other items such as cellphones, solar panels and catalytic converters, among other items.
If it gets the go-ahead, Brisson said the operation, including the open pit mine and the mill, would employ 235 people for at least 15 years. It would produce 14 tonnes of concentrate a day.
About 95% of the world supply of rare earth minerals are supplied by China. The Matamec proposal, if approved, would create the first rare earth mining operation in Canada.