THE BAPE REPORT IS NOW PUBLIC
Québec City , May 16, 2005 – Today, at the request of Thomas J. Mulcair, Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks , the Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE) released its report on the p otential effects of operating a niobium mine and plant in Oka on surface and ground waters and on their uses. The mandate of inquiry began December 6, 2004 . Joseph Zayed chaired the commission entrusted with studying the project.
After analysis, the commission is of the opinion that the studies carried out by Niocan Inc. did not allow the commission to rule confidently on certain aspects of its mandate because of a number of gaps. To rectify this, Niocan Inc. has made numerous commitments, including a pledge to conduct other more in-depth studies in the case of the certificate of authorization. Within a sustainable development perspective and according to the principle of prevention, the commission feels that this approach is inappropriate because such studies would be conducted after issuance of a possible certificate and without sufficient guarantees as to Niocan Inc’s fulfilment of its commitments. It is important to require such guarantees and to be transparent and stringent in monitoring this file so that current uses are not jeopardized by the project.
More specifically, further to its examination of the aspects submitted regarding the p otential effects on water and on their uses, the commission has mainly concluded that the extent ground water pumping required for operating the mine would lead to lowering of water levels in the deep aquifer over an average radius of 1.7 km at most from the projected mine, but the exact configuration and size are impossible to determine due to carbonatite heterogeneity. It could also lower the ground water table and the level of certain wetlands and slightly decrease the flow of the ruisseau Rousse upstream from the intended mine. This decrease would have an impact on agricultural water supply. The commission feels that the stocking of mine tailings in ditches and tailings sites could trigger minor contamination of ground water without affecting the quality of surface water. In terms of contamination, stocking of mine tailings and slag in drifts should not be a significant risk to ground water. The uncertainty surrounding the characterization of mine water and its flow weakens any assessment of their effects on ruisseau Rousse water quality and their agricultural use downstream from the point of discharge of mining effluent.
Finally, the commission learned through the public consultation process that the land on which the mine is located is subject to claims. Furthermore, most public consultation participants are very concerned about the mining project, to which they did not consent. Today, several would rather focus on agri-tourism given Oka ’s status as an important tourist attraction due to its proximity to Montréal and its national park.
The inquiry and public hearings report on the p otential effects of operating a niobium mine and plant in Oka on surface and ground water and the uses thereof is now available at BAPE’s consultation centres, the consultation centres in the community concerned, and at BAPE’s Web site at www.bape.gouv.qc.ca. You can also request a copy from BAPE by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phoning either (418) 643-7447 or toll-free 1-800-463-4732.
– 30 –
Source: Rosemary Al-Hayek