A preliminary recommendation by Québec’s agricultural land protection agency may hinder plans for a proposed graphite mine in Grenville-sur-la-Route.
On October 12, Commission de protection du territoire agricole du Québec (CPTAQ) Vice President Élaine Grignon and Commissioner Jean Norbert issued what is called a preliminary orientation on an application by Canada Carbon to develop the Miller Mine for graphite extraction on 85 hectares/210 acres between Chemins Scotch and Kilmar.
Approval or rejection by the CPTAQ is required because the affected land has potential agricultural value for maple sugar production. According to the CPTAQ, sugar maples occupy 64 per cent of the property.
The CPTAQ document explains that a mining project contradicts the agricultural zone development plan for the region which encourages the development of maple sugar resources based on the significant stands of maples identified on the property.
“In this context, it must be concluded that authorization would annihilate all the potential maple syrup production in the affected areas during the work, but also for the following decades,” the CPTAQ explains.
“On the basis of this criterion, the Commission considers that it must refuse the request,” the report further reads.
The CPTAQ further argues that even if affected areas were to be reforested with sugar maples, it would still not compensate for the loss of surface areas containing good maple sugar possibilities.
The preliminary orientation notes there is already a sugar shack 40 metres/43 yards from the mine site and the mining activity will affect the agricultural potential of neighbouring lands and cause negative impacts within the maple forests on those lands.
The CPTAQ considered research done by an agronomist on the potential harm the project could have on the soil and identifies that hydrogeological studies still must be performed. The recommendations against approval of the application by the Municipality of Grenville-sur-la-Rouge were also examined.
Canada Carbon first applied to the CPTAQ to develop the Miller Mine in 2016. The CPTAQ ultimately rejected the application. In 2020, Canada Carbon initiated a $96 million lawsuit against the municipality, which was subsequently settled out of court. Part of the settlement allowed Canada Carbon to do limited exploration work at the mine site.
Grenville-sur-la-Rouge Mayor Tom Arnold emphasized the current directive from the CPTAQ is preliminary. However, he believes it is a sign the commission is doing careful research. Grenville-sur-la-Rouge council has consistently objected to the mine application. Arnold noted a previous CPTAQ preliminary orientation was favourable towards the project, even though that application was eventually rejected.
“It’s a good sign. It means they’re being more careful,” Arnold said.
Canada Carbon has 30 days to request a public hearing and appeal the preliminary orientation. The Review contacted Canada Carbon to inquire about its potential response to the CPTAQ but did not receive a response by publication time.
Arnold said if Canada Carbon requests a hearing it will be up to the CPTAQ to set a date and to give the company time to gather further research. Arnold said the municipality will continue to have experts do independent research on the potential negative effects the Miller graphite mine project may have.