Graphite mine near Duhamel, Que., has locals worried

People living in Duhamel and Lac-des-Plages, Que., about 125 kilometres northeast of Ottawa, are concerned a graphite mine could ruin the quality of life in their picturesque region. The mining company's CEO says the public outcry is premature.

Public outcry premature, company's CEO says

Lac Gagnon is one of several lakes enjoyed by residents and tourists in the Petite-Nation area. (Jonathan Dupaul/Radio-Canada)

With its scenic lakes, beaches and forests, the Petite-Nation area of Quebec's Outaouais region is a paradise for lovers of the great outdoors.

But residents now worry a graphite mine project near the towns of Duhamel and Lac-des-Plages, about 125 kilometres northeast of Ottawa, could affect their quality of life.

There's still many years before any material will be mined from this location, if at all.- Paul Gill, Lomiko Metals

"The development of the region here is based on leisure, recreation and ecotourism," said Louis St-Hilaire, a spokesperson for the Regroupement de protection des lacs de la Petite-Nation, a coalition of seven local homeowners' associations.

"The mining industry and the outdoor industry aren't really compatible," he said in a French-language interview with Radio-Canada.

Louis St-Hilaire is the spokesperson for the Regroupement de protection des lacs de la Petite-Nation. (Jonathan Dupaul/Radio-Canada)

Surrey, B.C., company Lomiko Metals recently completed exploratory diamond drilling in a search for graphite, a mineral used by the electric vehicle industry, among others.

But St-Hilaire worries about the environmental consequences, as well as the impact on local traffic. He's also worried it could pave the way for other mining projects in the vicinity.

His group plans to lobby elected officials and enlist the help of other organizations to fight the project, he said.

Early stages, CEO says

The CEO of Lomiko Metals, Paul Gill, said he can't understand the outcry, given that the project is in a "very early stage." 

"What are they opposing?" he asked. "There is no plan at this point in time. All there is is a general concept. So when we get to specifics, then we can communicate effectively with everyone and alleviate some of the fears they have."

Before building a mine at the La Loutre Project, as the site is formally called, Lomiko Metals would need to complete an environmental impact assessment and obtain permits from the government.

"There's still many years before any material will be mined from this location, if at all," Gill said.

Gill believes the lawsuit by mining company Canada Carbon against town of Grenville-sur-la-Rouge, Que., might explain the negative reaction against his own project.

He said Lomiko Metals intends to work with residents, and he hopes to convince them that the La Loutre Project could benefit the local economy.

Paul Gill is the chief executive officer of Lomiko Metals. The Surrey, B.C., company has a property near Duhamel and Lac-des-Plages, Que. (CBC)

Mayor wants long-term vision

Duhamel Mayor David Pharand told Radio-Canada he wants answers to numerous questions before taking a position.

He's concerned about the possible impacts of open-pit mining including "blasting, dust and the state of roadways because of trucks."

Pharand noted the local economy relies heavily on lakes and the natural scenery, and he doesn't want to compromise that for short-term gains.

"Some might see [mining] as the arrival of attractive salaries," he said. "However, those salaries last only as long as the mine, so only for 20-25 years. After that, those jobs disappear."

Duhamel plans to create a committee with the neighbouring communities of Lac-des-Plages and Lac-Simon in order to obtain more information. Local officials are already in touch with the mining company, Pharand said.

David Pharand is the mayor of Duhamel, Que. He says mining exploration has been going on for a few years. (Patrick Louiseize/Radio-Canada)

With files from Radio-Canada's Jérôme Bergeron and Laurie Trudel


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