An announcement by the agency that regulates agricultural land use in Québec has opponents of a proposed graphite mine and marble quarry in Grenville-sur-la-Rouge feeling optimistic.

Due to the sugar-maple forest and linkages with agricultural water resources on the 57.89-hectare property where Canada Carbon would like to develop the mine, permission had to be obtained from the Commission de protection du territoire agricole du Québec (CPTAQ). On July 21, the CPTAQ issued a notice stating it intends to change which activities Canada Carbon may engage in on the mine property.

The CPTAQ identified that the protection of an adjacent maple-sugar production facility owned by André St-Pierre had to be considered, along with the impact a mine could have on water resources. The commission indicated it will reject Canada Carbon’s application to exploit the property as a mine, but will allow the company to undertake exploration activities for only two years at the site if it agrees to follow certain rules.

The CPTAQ will require Canada Carbon to submit a separate application for mineral extraction on the lands. The company will have to provide further evidence to convince the commission its extraction plans should be approved.

Canada Carbon will have to meet several conditions as an obligation to being granted permission for exploration. If any trees or soil must be removed, it should be carried out under the supervision of a forestry engineer and an agronomist, and the forestry engineer and agronomist must submit notifications of the work to the CPTAQ before it begins. Excavation must occur in a way that does not harm the soil, and any trees that are planted should be sugar maples.

The CPTAQ gave the public the opportunity to submit written comments on the statement for up to 30 days after it was issued.  The deadline is August 20.

SOS Grenville-sur-la-Rouge, the local citizen’s organization which has long objected to the mine, is welcoming the CPTAQ’s announcement.

“We are back to square one,” stated a news release issued by the organization.

“They can’t exploit, they can only explore,” said Jacqueline Richer of SOS Grenville-sur-la-Rouge.

The organization has always doubted the proposed mine and quarry has the social acceptability to go ahead. It has called the recent CPTAQ statement an indication Canada Carbon needs to do more to prove any benefits the project would have.

“They have to do their homework,” said Richer.

Grenville-sur-la-Rouge Mayor Tom Arnold cautioned that the CPTAQ statement is not a final decision, but only an indication of what it intends to do.

“They’re indicating this has gone the other way completely.”

The mayor emphasized the July 21 announcement was only preliminary and has asked for further comments from the public before a final decision is made.

Meanwhile, a meeting between the municipality and Canada Carbon was held on July 27. The meeting was the latest in the series of confidential discussions that have been taking place since the summer of 2020 to allow the two parties to establish a dialogue for the implementation of the agreement reached on February 19, 2020, as part of an out-of-court settlement of a previous $96-million lawsuit against the municipality. The discussions have mainly focused on the nature of the project and the respective roles of each party.

“The Municipality of Grenville-sur-la-Rouge, as a local government, will exercise its role and duty to protect its citizens and the environment,” stated Arnold in a news release issued following the meeting.

Both parties have agreed to continue the discussions.