The Canadian company Canada Carbon's Miller graphite mine project is located 80 km west of Montreal in the Township of Grenville. The Miller mine is a historical deposit of graphite and mica which was originally mined between 1845 and 1900. As of 2012 new studies were conducted by a geologist while the company Canada Carbon acquired 71 mining titles (claims), located on both sides of the Red River. The areas newly acquired by Canada Carbon covered 4,152 hectares, which is to say nearly a third of the municipality of Grenville-sur-la-Rouge. Phase 1 of this new project would consist in the extraction of marble and graphite from three open pits and the construction of an on-site flotation plant, which would occupy a total area of 62 ha. The construction of a heat treatment plant in Asbury, 150 km northwest of the Miller site, is also being planned. Annual production is expected to amount to 1,515 tons of seam graphite (very high purity, nuclear quality) and 150,000 tons of marble   .
Graphite is a mineral considered of critical importance in the current context of energy transition because it is key to manufacturing Li-Ion batteries that power electric vehicles. However, due to the high purity of the deposits at the Miller site, this resource is not in fact targeting battery production, but rather production of small modular reactors (SMRs) that can generate electricity for remote areas without greenhouse gases. This type of power generation would replace the diesel power plants commonly used today. The key problem is that the development of such reactors is highly hypothetical, entails high speculation in the valuation of this type of graphite and, significantly, is still at the research stage.
The company, with its redesigned project, is simultaneously proposing a plan to develop and restore a maple grove that it has itself partially destroyed and to return the residues to the pit once the graphite mining has been completed. However, this process has never been carried out in the area. Moreover, electrifying the project’s machinery will certainly require a more powerful electrical connection than that currently available near the future site (let alone the development of this electrification). Another problematic aspect of the project relates to its water requirements and specifically the quantities of discharge that will be accumulated in a retention basin so close to the wetland to the south of the project. Will the hydrological basin be able to withstand such a drain without consequence on the rivers which cross or are near to the future site?
In December 2016, Canada Carbon presented a seemingly fabulous project to the municipal council of Grenville-sur-la-Rouge (GSLR). Excited by the presentation, the council forwent any form of consultation and provided its approval for the project to the Commission de Protection du Territoire Agricole du Québec (CPTAQ). The CPTAQ would then subtract agricultural land for the construction of the mine, a motion adopted at the municipal council meeting on December 13, 2016 . In February 2017, in response to this rapid decision, which occurred without consultation, a hundred residents of the Grenville-sur-la-Rouge territory formed the SOS GSLR citizen committee to express and act their concern over the possible socio-environmental impacts of the mining project.
The committee has since sought further information on the mining project as well as the impact of mining activity in general and has been forming strong alliances with the groups "Coalition pour que le Québec A Better Mine (QMM)", "Mining Watch Canada (MWC)", "Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN)" or "Western Mining Action Network (WMAN)".
The main issues and impacts related to the mining project denounced by the SOS GSLR committee and its allies are:
- Noise pollution linked to the mine and to increased traffic of heavy trucks in an ill-suited and winding country road (more than 50 trucks are expected to cross daily)  .
- Risks of contamination of rivers and underground water by surface water and by the lexivas basin resulting from the cleaning of graphite. Impact of the large pumping of water from an aquifer of unknown quantity which could cause depletion of drinking water wells  .
- Exposure to airborne graphite dust which can cause graphite pneumoconiosis, a severe and incurable respiratory disease similar to asbestosis .
- Deforestation over an area of approximately 1 square km. An illegal logging of maple has already taken place at the site  .
- Significant loss in property value, also implying a reduction in property taxes for the municipality. Disruption of a resort area inhabited for generations around Lake McGillivray. Aggravated deterioration of the territory already marked by quarries, a cement plant, a Hydro-Quebec high voltage line, with little economic spinoff for GSLR. Indeed, the profits from mining would go first to the shareholders - often foreign - while the short and long term problems would burden the local population .
- Lack of social acceptability of the project, lack of detailed and preventive information on these possible impacts. The proponent has not entered into agreements with all the owners of adjacent land that will be used by the project. The proposed site provides for activities on land whose owners are against the project  .
- A possible gradual expansion of the currently proposed mining site. The company will use a rolling resource approach to manage the graphite deposit. It will continue to explore within its claims during the delineation and production phases of the resource. Depending on the quantities found it could submit a request to expand the project to open other pits within the territory. This is a calculated approach on the part of the company, which allows it to initially apply for a smaller project to start operations faster. Indeed, a request made for a larger project would initially require more time, could require an evaluation by the Bureau of Public Hearings on the Environment (BAPE) and would raise more questions. In the same logic of avoiding a BAPE study, the project claims to produce 499 tonnes daily in order to be just below the production threshold that requires a BAPE study (500 tonnes)  . Fortunately, the new agreement reached in February 2020 includes a presentation for the BAPE in the event of the operating authorization following a new request that should be made by the end of September 2023.
Thanks to the work of the SOS GSLR committee, many candidates who campaigned against the Canada Carbon project were elected councilors in the municipal elections of November 5, 2017 . In February 2018, the new municipal council canceled the favorable opinion issued by the former municipal council to the CPTAQ for the use of agricultural land. In addition, based on an amendment to the Mining Act, which grants regional county municipalities (RCMs) "the power to delimit, in their land use planning and development plan, territories incompatible with mining activities,” the municipality amended its zoning by-law to prohibit mining activities  .
The following month, in March 2018, Canada Carbon responded by filing a C $ 96 million lawsuit against the municipality of GSLR. This suit, prepared by the firm Beauregard Avocats, represents one of the largest lawsuits targeting a municipality in the history of Quebec. It is equivalent to 17 times the budget of Grenville-sur-la-Rouge or more than $ 32,000 per citizen . This claim for damages was denounced as abusive by the municipality, SOS GSLR and other organizations. It is seen as a form of intimidation of city council members and a way of limiting their freedom of expression . In the same logic of intimidation, a complaint was filed by the company against one of the members of SOS GSLR.
This request for 96 million also shows the true face of Canada Carbon, which officially presents itself as "a small mining company proposing a very small mining project with the most benign environmental impact possible," yet which does not hesitate to threaten to bankrupt the community whose approval it is still seeking . It also shows its lack of respect for citizen decision-making, as Ugo Lapointe of Mining Watch Canada noted: “This company fails the social acceptability test and throws oil on the fire. The new city council was elected with a strong majority. If in 2018, the municipalities can no longer decide which development is best for their population, we have a problem ”.
In addition, a report published on the technical and economic viability of the Miller project of the mining company Canada Carbon shows that the project "is not worth $ 96 million as the company is currently claiming." Such damages cannot be claimed when the project remains highly speculative and the economic viability of the project has not been demonstrated .
As the legal battle continues, another strategy is also being used by the residents of Grenville and members of SOS GLSR. Article 235 of the new version of the Quebec Mining Act requires "written authorization" from the owners before a company can access their land and carry out mining exploration work. Thus landowners of lands on which Canada Carbon has claims are being invited to send a letter to the company indicating their refusal for the company to access to their property . About 80 owners will send letters prohibiting access to more than 100 lots and lots in Grenville-sur-la-Rouge; “These properties cover more than 600 hectares and represent more than 80% of the owners most directly affected by the Canada Carbon Miller project. This is once again a strong message that there is no social acceptability for this project," says Normand Éthier, co-spokesperson for the SOS GSLR group .
In February 2020, the company dropped the lawsuits against the municipality following an out-of-court settlement. The agreement between the two parties stipulates that Canada Carbon must submit its project to the Office of Public Hearings on the Environment of Quebec (BAPE), hold public consultations on all aspects of the project, limit blasting and crushing activities, comply with noise and dust limits established by regulation and share the costs of modifying GSLR's municipal roads  .
In July 2021, after hearing the reluctance of several experts, citizens, the Union des producteurs agricoles (UPA), the MRC d'Argenteuil and the municipality, the CPTAQ changed its originally favorable preliminary opinion to Canada Carbon that it issued the previous summer. It also refused permission for the operation of a quarry and a mine on the territory of Grenville-sur-laRouge: “The commission considers that at the time it gave its decision, it did not have all the information required to assess the project in its real state. This represents for the moment a half-victory, because while the company must wait two years to know if it can continue the exploitation of the Miller mine, it can nonetheless continue exploration work for the time being [18 ] .
|Name of conflict:||Canada Carbon's Miller graphite mine project, Canada|
|State or province:||Quebec|
|Location of conflict:||Canton of Grenville-sur-la Rouge, Regional County Municipality (RCM) of Argenteuil|
|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
Tailings from mines
Building materials extraction (quarries, sand, gravel)
|Specific commodities:||Graphite and marble|
The Miller mine is a historical deposit of graphite and mica which was exploited between 1845 and 1900. As of 2012, new studies are made by a geologist and the company Canada Carbon acquires 71 mining titles (claims), located on both sides. on the other side of the Red River, for a total area of 4,152 hectares. Phase 1 of this new project envisions the extraction of graphite and marble from three open pits and the construction of an on-site flotation plant for a total occupied area of 62 ha. Construction of a heat treatment plant to be located in Asbury, 150 km northwest of the Miller site, is also planned. The annual production is estimated at 1515 tons of graphite and 150 thousand tons of marble   .
|Project area:||67 ha for the mine operation and 4,152 ha of mining claims|
|Level of Investment for the conflictive project||35,390,000 USD|
|Type of population||Semi-urban|
|Start of the conflict:||01/02/2017|
|Company names or state enterprises:||Canada Carbon from Canada|
|Relevant government actors:||Commission de protection du territoire agricole du Québec (CPTAQ)|
Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE
Municipalité de Grenville-sur-la-Rouge
|Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:||Comité citoyen SOS GSLR : https://sosgslr.ca/|
Coalition pour que le Québec ait meilleure mine [QMM] : http://www.quebecmeilleuremine.org/
Mining Watch Canada [MWC]: https://miningwatch.ca/
Indigenous Environmental Network [IEN]: https://www.ienearth.org/
Western Mining Action Network [WMAN]: https://wman-info.org/
|Intensity||MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)|
|Reaction stage||PREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)|
Local government/political parties
|Forms of mobilization:||Creation of alternative reports/knowledge|
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
|Environmental Impacts||Visible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover|
Potential: Air pollution, Food insecurity (crop damage), Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Waste overflow, 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
|Health Impacts||Potential: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..)|
|Socio-economical Impacts||Visible: Violations of human rights|
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of livelihood, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
|Project Status||Planned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)|
|Conflict outcome / response:||Criminalization of activists|
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Negotiated alternative solution
Strengthening of participation
Application of existing regulations
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Project temporarily suspended
|Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:||Not Sure|
|Briefly explain:||This represents for the moment a half-victory, because while the company must wait two years to know if it can continue the exploitation of the Miller mine, it can nonetheless continue exploration work for the time being|
|Contributor:||Comité citoyen SOS Grenville-sur-la-Rouge (GSLR)|
Protest aganst the mine projet
Source: SOS Grenville-sur-la-Rouge
Territories incompatibles with mining activities and canada Carbon project in Greenvile-sur-la-Rouge
Source: SOS Grenville-sur-la-Rouge
Lots where landowners have forbidden acess to Canada Carbon
Source: SOS Grenville-sur-la-Rouge