The municipality of Grenville-sur-la-Rouge and the MRC d’Argenteuil have requested Canada Carbon authorization to access the proposed Miller Project mine site for the completion of studies and have requested the Commission de Protection du Territoire Agricole du Québec (CPTAQ) to suspend the file and postpone public hearings into the project.

Both the councils of Grenville-sur-la-Rouge and the MRC d’Argenteuil have adopted resolutions requesting Canada Carbon to grant the experts hired by the municipality access the Miller Project site. They want their experts to obtain the information necessary to complete the studies commissioned by the municipality as it prepares for CPTAQ hearings into the mining and quarry proposal.  The municipality and the MRC have also demanded the CPTAQ suspend the file and postpone the public hearings if the studies are not completed.

Canada Carbon wants to operate a marble quarry and a graphite mine at the site.  The proposal has been controversial since it first became public knowledge.  A $96-million lawsuit by Canada Carbon against Grenville-sur-la-Rouge because of the municipality’s efforts to stop the project – based on environmental and health concerns – ended in 2020, when the two parties reached a settlement agreement.

The project is currently in front of the board of the CPTAQ, which will decide on Canada Carbon’s request for the rights to use the land for purposes other than agricultural. Depending on the outcome of the CPTAQ process, the proposal will still require further review of possible environmental and social impacts, which is known as the BAPE process in Québec.

In June 2020, the municipality mandated a forestry engineer, a hydrogeologist, and an agronomist to review the studies submitted by Canada Carbon to CPTAQ. The decision by the municipality respects the intent of the MRC d’Argenteuil council resolution adopted in February 2017, which requested that independent and additional studies be executed at Canada Carbon’s expense. The municipality requested that Canada Carbon reimburse the total cost of the studies, which Canada Carbon has so far not done.

According to Grenville sur-la-Rouge, preliminary conclusions revealed many discrepancies and anomalies, which lead the municipality to decide to do total in-depth studies, including onsite analysis. So far, site access to complete the studies has been refused by Canada Carbon, even though cooperation by Canada Carbon was a key component of the out-of-court settlement.

In the meantime, Canada Carbon issued a press release in March stating that it wants to establish a discussion protocol with Grenville-sur-la-Rouge as quickly as possible regarding the future of the Miller Project. Establishing the protocol is required under the agreement between Canada Carbon and the municipality which ended the $96-million lawsuit.  The requirement to establish protocol essentially means the two parties will agree upon how to proceed with future discussions.

“We want to build trust from the very beginning of this important process and wish to begin dialogue in order to continue positively towards the common goals identified by both parties in the Settlement Agreement signed in February 2020, ” said Canada Carbon Interim CEO Olga Nikitovic.

Canada Carbon claims it sent several communications to the municipality during 2020 to begin the dialogue and that it made clear the company would be willing to pay for some portion of the co-facilitator utilized by Grenville-sur-la-Rouge. Canada Carbon is also prepared to fund some portion of the reports and says the company has provided the municipality’s consultants with the source data from Canada Carbon’s independent consultants so that the municipality can conduct its own studies.

In early March, Canada Carbon proposed both parties each develop their own draft protocol. Once the two protocol proposals are finalized, Canada Carbon says they can be reviewed by both parties for constructive comments. The proposals would then be refined, in order to allow for a joint agreement to be signed.

Grenville-sur-la-Rouge Mayor Tom Arnold said in early March that he cannot comment on anything to do with the development of the discussion protocol because the negotiations are confidential. Arnold did note that the studies commissioned by the municipality resulted from a decision by council in the spring of 2020, with the purpose of verifying the information in Canada Carbon’s studies. He noted the studies cannot be completed unless experts from the municipality have access to the Miller project site.