MRC challenges province over possible future mining in Saint-Lazare and on Mont Rigaud
By John Jantak
PHOTO COURTESY NICK ZACHARIAS
Rigaud Mountain, enjoyed by skiers and hikers from across the region, is one of two areas – the other being Saint-Lazare – that the 23 mayors of the Vaudreuil-Soulanges Municipalité régionale de comté (MRC) are seeking to exclude from any future mining activity by the Province of Quebec.
Plans by the provincial government to allow mining in the Towns of Rigaud and Saint-Lazare are being challenged by the Municipalité Régionale de Comté (MRC) de Vaudreuil-Soulanges over concerns regarding the negative impact the activity would have across the entire territory.
The issue was discussed among the mayors of the 23 municipalities that comprise the MRC at a January 27 meeting and all agreed that mining should not be allowed because it would severely affect the remaining fragile environmental diversity in the region and seriously impact the underground aquifers which provide the potable water supply for many municipalities.
The MRC recently adopted its revised Schéma d'aménagement et de développement which prohibits mining in the territory but it was rejected by the province. Raymond Malo, the MRC Adjunct Director General, said the MRC is adamant that the pristine woodlands of Mont Rigaud and the aquifers must be protected as well as the region’s underground drinking water source.
Saint-Lazare Mayor Robert Grimaudo agrees with Malo’s assessment and is adamant that mining not be allowed within the territory because of the damage it could cause to the drinking water supply which is also used by neighbouring municipalities.
“The provincial government says that if certain things are discovered such as rare earth minerals like lithium, the government has the right to allow mining in Vaudreuil-Soulanges. It’s very bureaucratic in that the government gives themselves that right,” said Grimaudo.
“The fact is Vaudreuil-Soulanges has 160,000 people. We’re not talking about a little MRC that is located in the far north with a large swath of territory and a population of 5,000 people. To allow mining in Vaudreuil-Soulanges is completely illogical. It’s insane to think that we would allow it in our territory,” he added.
Grimaudo said 18 of the 23 municipalities that comprise the MRC access their water from underground sources. “There are very few that get their water from the rivers or lakes. It’s an extremely important resource. For the provincial government to insist that if they see the necessity to still permit mining in our territory… just this thought is completely ludicrous,” he said.
THE JOURNAL FILE PHOTO/JOHN JANTAK
The members of the Vaudreuil-Soulanges MRC is requesting in its current Schéma d'aménagement et de développement (SAD) to be excluded from any mining that may be carried out by the Province of Quebec, something the provincial officials have not agreed to.
Long history in Quebec
According to investquebec.com, one fifth of Canada’s mining output comes from Québec which has the most diverse resources in the country including lithium, rare earths and apatite. It goes on to say, “Québec is one of the rare producers of niobium, titanium dioxide, cobalt and platinum in the world. The province is also Canada’s biggest producer of iron concentrate and zinc and its second-largest producer of gold.”
Mont Rigaud preservation essential
Environmental activist Katherine Massam who lives on Mont Rigaud said she was shocked and dismayed to learn of the government’s plans to disregard the MRC’s mining ban in its territory
“Mont Rigaud is an extremely important ancient forest. It’s one of the last two forests remaining in the Saint-Lawrence Valley and needs to be preserved. The forest is home to many unique species of animals and birds. There are 150 species of birds, 95 of which nest on the mountain at the end point of their migration,” said Massam.
“It’s very important for the production of fresh air for this area and Montreal because of the density of the trees. There are about 4,300 hectares of intact ancient forest so this is not only important for the wildlife but also for our air. It’s also a recreational area for citizens from all over Vaudreuil-Soulanges and the West Island,” she added.
Massam says mining should be disallowed and the forest preserved. “At what price are you willing to have economic development? You can’t put a price on the value of Mont Rigaud regarding the environmental and social terms. Mining is a very invasive activity. It could ruin the environment for the people who live here and for the people who use the mountain.”