To fully understand the environmental, social and democratic issues surrounding the Authier mining project, it is necessary to appreciate how sacred the Saint-Mathieu-Berry esker is to the population of the Regional County Municipality (MRC) of Abitibi. Abitibi is a regional county of Quebec, Canada with a population of roughly 25,000 people and the city of Amos lies at its center. The Saint-Mathieu-Berry esker is a natural filter inherited from the retreat of the glaciers several millennia ago and shelters an underground river with water of exceptional purity which, in 2001, received the prestigious distinction of best water in the world  . Moreover, it is from this source that the well-known water bottling company Eska is supplied.
On February 1, 2018, a young citizen of Amos sounded the alert in local media after discovering, according to his estimates, that an Australian mining company, Sayona Mining, wanted to exploit a lithium deposit within 500 meters of the esker . The news instantly sparked outrage among the Abitibi population. The company then waited nearly five months to clarify, at the insistence of the assembly in a consultation session, that the actual distance between the pit and the esker would be 75 meters. To contain criticism, the mining company made a written pledge that it "will not come within 50 meters of the esker." However, a map that the company was going to release on October 2, 2018 showed that the nearest projected facilities were barely 20.2 meters from the esker .
The impression that Sayona Mining is attempting to conceal sensitive information has persisted since the public learned that the mining company deliberately designed its project to avoid being subjected to an investigation by the Public Hearings Bureau on the Environment (BAPE). Indeed, by choosing to extract 1900 metric tonnes per day, Sayona Mining legally managed to fall below the 2000 tonnes threshold, which would result in the automatic application of the rigorous environmental impact assessment and review procedure. The company has since acknowledged that it initially planned to extract a daily volume of 2,100 tonnes, following on the plans of the previous mine from which it acquired the mining rights in 2016   .
Since March 23, 2018, the Environment Quality Act’s entry into force enables the Minister of the Environment to deploy the BAPE on projects that could previously bypass it if “environmental issues that it can cause are major and that the concerns of the public justify it ” .
Citizens formed a mass mobilization effort in an attempt to demonstrate to the Minister the Authier mining prokect’s lack of social acceptability and therefore the need to submit it to the BAPE. Before Sayona Mining even submitted its environmental assessment, four scientific organizations, three environmental groups as well as the newly formed Citizen's Committee for the Protection of the Esker, called on Minister Isabelle Melançon to use her new powers. In January 2019, 32,041 people signed a petition to this effect which was recently forwarded to the new Minister of the Environment, Mr. Benoît Charette .
The three scientific organizations that analyzed the environmental study of the Authier project produced by Sayona Mining concludes that it lacks rigor, shows a lack of crucial information and was clearly written with an unwarranted sense of urgency. They unanimously reiterated the need for the project to be subject to the BAPE .
Within the municipality of La Motte, a municipality in Abitibi, Sayona Mining intentions caused a democratic and political crisis in the village. On July 9, 2018, at the express request of the mining company, but in the absence and without the knowledge of the mayor, the municipal councilors adopted a resolution in support of the Authier project  . By proceeding without first consulting their population, they went back on their commitment to neutrality and to wait until a possible citizens' assembly on the matter could be formed. In a few months, the mayor, who advocated values of protection of the territory and valued the importance of consulting his electorate, resigned . A new citizens' committee was created in the village, which, to date, managed to collect more than 150 signatures of fellow citizens wishing that the Authier project be submitted to the BAPE out of a population of 300 people able to vote.
Until September 18, 2018 Sayona Mining was ensuring that it was not considering any expansion scenario. Barely 6 days later in its final feasibility study, the company suddenly revealed that such a possibility could be considered  . Nothing legally prevents the company from directly encroaching on the esker since it has many claims that already overlap with it   However, the scientific organizations that studied the study mining location of Sayona Mining are alarmed by the aims of the multinational company since the lithium deposit is sinking under the esker.
Since emerging on the scene in February 2018, Sayona Mining has not simply ignored the population’s indisputable desire that the Authier project be submitted to the BAPE. Its spokesperson has belittled the concerns of the population by comparing their requests to “noise” on numerous occasions . Moreover, the company broke several of its public commitments, including that of holding public feedback meetings in September 2018 on comments and concerns raised by its activities. In October 2018, Sayona Mining went so far as to make a misleading speech in a public presentation, claiming that its project was the smallest in Quebec.
On December 20, 2018, Sayona Mining submitted its official request for a certificate of authorization to the Ministry of the Environment and the Fight against Climate Change. This triggered the three-month period granted to the Minister of the Environment to submit the Authier project to the BAPE.
Without delay, the Esker Citizen Protection Committee sent a request for access to information to the Minister of the Environment to obtain all the documents concerning the Authier project. It was only by analyzing confidential technical documents that the Citizen Committee ended up discovering that in reality, the project should already be considered as automatically subject to the BAPE since the daily ore extraction capacity exceeded the threshold of 2000 tonnes per day.
Based on this observation, the Citizen's Committee quickly sent a formal notice to the Minister of the Environment urging him to submit the project to the BAPE .
The Authier project was finally submitted to the BAPE in early March 2019, thanks to citizen mobilization and the threat of legal action against the Minister of the Environment.
More than two years later, the impact assessment for the project is still not complete, but the public expects the project to be submitted to the BAPE soon.
The company now seeks to present its project as “green” on two counts. First, they claim to operate on a supply of renewable hydroelectric power, minimizing their carbon footprint at the point of production. Second, the spodumene produced will contribute to batteries for electric vehicles, thus positioning their company as part of the needed energy transition. Alexis Segal, vice-president of corporate affairs at Sayona Quebec made the following statement to that effect: "Lithium is part of the solution to global warming. As you know, the growth in demand for lithium is around 35% per year and we currently have the opportunity to enter this market with a production of lithium ore which is more green than elsewhere in the world, because it will be made from hydroelectric energy ” . Moreover, the Quebec branch of the company has now teamed up with the Australian-born and American-flagged company, Piedmont Lithium . Sayona Quebec will supply Piedmont Lithium with the spodumene that will be transformed into lithium hydroxide to supply battery production for the company Tesla.
Sayona is now seeking to establish itself more widely in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region by pursuing two other controversial lithium mining projects: the relaunch of the North American Lithium mine and Tansim Lithium. This new ambition risks changing the configuration of the Authier Lithium project.
|Name of conflict:||Sayona Mining’s Authier Lithium Project in Québec, Canada|
|State or province:||Québec|
|Location of conflict:||La Motte|
|Accuracy of location||HIGH (Local level)|
|Type of conflict. 1st level:||Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction|
|Type of conflict. 2nd level:||Deforestation|
Mining exploration and/or ore extraction
Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Tailings from mines
Pollution related to transport (spills, dust, emissions)
The project represents an annual production of 115,000 tonnes of spodumene concentrate containing lithium (6% Li2O). The project includes an open pit mine, a waste rock and filtered tailings accumulation area (overburden dumps), a plant that will process 2,600 tonnes per day of ore containing lithium, as well as collection of runoff and dewatering water from the pit.
The open pit mine will be 1,000 meters long, 600 meters wide and 225 meters deep at the end of operations.
Mineral reserves: 12.1 million tonnes of ore
Concentrate: 1.6 million tonnes of spodumene
Daily production: 2,600 tons of mineral
Annual production: 115,000 tonnes of concentrate
Operation: 14 years
Official project description documents:
Sayona Quebec company official website:
Environmental Assessment Registry:
|Project area:||884 ha|
|Level of Investment for the conflictive project||177,494,760|
|Type of population||Rural|
|Affected Population:||La Motte: 400 inhabitants; Amos region: 15,000 inhabitants; Abitibiwinni First Nation: 600 Abitibiwinnik|
|Start of the conflict:||01/02/2018|
|Company names or state enterprises:||Sayona Mining Limited from Australia - Owner company|
Sayona Québec inc. from Canada - Subsidiary of Sayona Mining
Sayona Québec inc. from Canada - Subsidiary of Sayona Mining
|Relevant government actors:||Gouvernement du Québec|
Ministère de l’Economie du Québec
Ministère de l’Énergie et des Ressources naturelles
Ministère de l’environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques
Ministère des Transports
Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE) du Québec
|Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:||-Comité citoyen de protection de l’esker (CCPE)|
-Regroupement Vigilance Mines de l’Abitibi-Témiscamingue (REVIMAT)
-Comité nouvelle Vision (NoVI) de La Motte
-Comité Réflexion, Appropriation, Information, Esker Saint-Mathieu (RAVIE-SM)
- Mining Watch Canadá
- Coalition Pour que le Québec ait meilleure mine!
|Intensity||MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)|
|Reaction stage||PREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)|
|Groups mobilizing:||Indigenous groups or traditional communities|
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Pikogan community, also known as Abitibiwinni First Nation
|Forms of mobilization:||Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)|
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Referendum other local consultations
|Environmental Impacts||Visible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover|
Potential: Air pollution, Global warming, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Mine tailing spills, Other Environmental impacts
|Health Impacts||Visible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Other Health impacts|
Potential: Accidents, Infectious diseases
|Socio-economical Impacts||Visible: Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place|
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures
|Project Status||Planned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)|
|Conflict outcome / response:||Strengthening of participation|
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
|Proposal and development of alternatives:||A) Creation of hiking trails: Goûte à goûte project. |
This project consists of creating a pedestrian network on the site of a possible mining operation which would then extend northward to Amos on the Saint Mathieu-Berry esker. A group of citizens are trying to promote the tourism industry along the esker with a project with low environmental impact.
B) The coalition "Pour que le Québec ait meilleure mine" proposes 5 conditions to limit the impacts of the transport electrification process  :
1. Reduction at source: prioritize investments in recycling and the circular economy, modes of transport and consumption that are both low in carbon and in materials, public transport, carpooling, fuel-efficient vehicles; real bonus / penalty measures to discourage large fuel-guzzling vehicles; change the way municipalities are financed to stop urban sprawl.
2. Environmental protection: subject all new mines to an environmental assessment and BAPE consultations — the equivalent is already being done for northern Quebec; prohibit all mining operations near sensitive ecological environments, including drinking water eskers, and prioritize the achievement of protected area objectives throughout Quebec - there is a long delay in southern Quebec.
3. Land use planning and respect for local communities: review the current laws and frameworks in order to give more powers to municipalities, MR and Indigenous Nations to protect the sensitive environments of their territories, in particular resorts, recreational tourism, ecotourism, sustainable forestry (eg: Mining Law, Land Use Planning and Development Law, Government guidelines for “territories incompatible with mining activity”).
4. Polluter-pays principle: demand solid financial guarantees for the clean-up of contaminated mining sites at the expense of companies and not of Quebecers, including a fund financed in part by the industry for abandoned sites with a debt of 1.2 billion; strengthen the capacity of ministries and penal sanctions for environmental offenses.
5. Critère d’investissement responsable : revoir et renforcer les critères sociaux, environnementaux et économiques d’Investissement Québec et la Caisse de dépôt et placement, notamment dans le secteur minier, en collaboration d’experts indépendants et diverses parties prenantes.
|Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:||Not Sure|
|Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)|
|Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network|
|Contributor:||Rodrigue Turgeon, co-porte-parole Comité citoyen de protection de l'esker (CCPE), Marc Nantel, porte-parole Regroupement Vigilance Mines de l'Abitibi et du Témiscamingue (REVIMAT)|
Manifestation pour que le projet Authier soit soumis au BAPE
Manifestation a Amos contre le projet Authier (9 mars 2019)
Source: Comité citoyen de protection de l’esker (CCPE)
Projet de Lithium Authier
Source: CONFÉRENCE ICM - Sayona : perspectives d’avenir:
Rassemblement citoyen du 10 février 2019 à la lisière de l'esker Saint-Mathieu-Berry, juste en face du terrain convoité pour le projet Authier.
Source: Comité citoyen de protection de l'esker
 Claims du projet Authier avec certains qui chevauchent l'Esker Saint-Mathieu-Berry
Source: Étude d’impact sur l’environnement Projet Authier Sayona Quebec Inc.