The Tansim open pit lithium mine project is located on the unceded ancestral territory of the community of Long Point First Nation (LPFN) of the Anicinabe First Nation, which counts over 800 members. This territory is included in the municipality of Moffet in Témiscamingue, in the province of Quebec, in Canada .
Owned by the junior Australian company Sayona Mining, this project is part of the wider objective of creating a "lithium pole" in Abitibi-Témiscamingue and in Nord-du-Québec, which would bring together several lithium pit mining projects including North American Lithium in La Corne, Authier Lithium in La Motte and the Moblan mine, north of Chibougamau .
The Tansim project site includes 350 claims covering more than 20,250 hectares along the north shore of Lake Simard. Geographically, these claims overlap on either side of the Ottawa River, the main tributary of the St. Lawrence River , with several claims including sensitive wetlands and waterways . Even while just scratching the surface of the Tansim project a number of significant risks of impacts on water emerge.
The location of the mining claims coincides with a territory heavily occupied by members of LPFN, on which they exercise their ancestral rights such as hunting, fishing, and gathering of medicinal plants.
Confronted by an imminent mining drilling campaign scheduled for the summer of 2021, the LPFN Council officially asked the Quebec government on May 12, 2021 to immediately suspend the mining rights of the Sayona Mining mining company on its ancestral territory. LPFN moreover called on the government to intervene by consulting with them separately from the mining company . The LPFN board considers that "mineral exploration drilling projects are likely to have a serious detrimental effect on the territory of the First Nation and the ancestral rights of its members" . The community bases its finding on a document from the company dated April 21, 2021 expressly indicating that shore, coastline, floodplain, marshes, swamps, ponds and peat bogs are all wetlands and bodies of water that would be affected if the planned mining activities saw the day .
In August 2021, the NAL mine located in La Corne in Abitibi was acquired by the same promoter as the Tansim mine. Following this, Sayona Mining has indicated that it wants to export the ore extracted from the Tansim project site to the NAL mine plant to process it at a distance of more than 100 kilometers from its place of origin. This approach raises important environmental issues associated with ore transport, noise, dust and pit backfilling.
Sayona Mining uses the discourse of the fight against climate change to promote the project, as shown by this statement by Guy Laliberté, CEO of Sayona Quebec: “We are going to make a major contribution to the fight against climate change. That too is a choice that must be considered. We are going to make fewer gasoline vehicles, more electric batteries. Overall, it's a gesture for the environment. We must see the consequences, certainly, it is not negligible, but the benefits are also there ”.
On Tuesday, May 4, 2021, the LPFN Board held an information session for its members dealing specifically with the Sayona Mining company project . Despite the health constraints, the event aroused great interest and good participation from members . Lasting two and a half hours, the vast majority of interventions raised several concerns about the project . A petition against the Tansim project which was launched in May 2021 by a member of the LPFN community had received over 22,000 signatures by October 8, 2021 .
For the LPFN community leader Steeve Mathias, the industry and the government would need to demonstrate that there is "no impact on our traditional way of life" and the First Nation would require an independent study to assess potential damage" . "The exploitation to get the minerals to produce those lithium batteries, how damaging is that going to be for the environment?" he said."Are we willing to sacrifice that just for the sake of electric cars? I'm not sure that's the right thing to do" .
Steeve Mathias also denounced the fact that, in his communications, Sayona Mining states that discussions are underway with the community to reach an agreement for the project. For the time being, instead, the company has only sent an offer of agreement to the First Long Point Nation in February 2021. However, the Band Council demands a consultation with the community before reaching an agreement. “It's not okay for them to make announcements, and say that everything is fine and then we were on the verge of making a deal. It's true that they sent an [offer] of a deal to the Director of Natural Resources in February 2021, but for the Council, it's on the shelf. We never bothered to even sit down and analyze this proposal ”: Steeve Mathias, Chief of the Long Point First Nation . The Long Point First Nation also insists that they don't want to be sacrificed, and that their way of life is priceless: “Our way of life is not for sale, regardless of how much money they offered. Of course, this is not the kind of sacrifice that the community is ready to make ” .