Quebec plans to move 200 homes from Horne Smelter in Rouyn-Noranda
The Quebec government expects to spend $85 million to relocate about 200 homes further away from the Horne smelter in Rouyn-Noranda, just north of the Notre-Dame neighborhood. The story was first reported in La Presse on Wednesday and was confirmed by Radio-Canada.
Glencore, the owner of the copper smelter, would buy and demolish about 80 buildings to create a new buffer zone around the plant that produces arsenic fumes and other pollutants.
Quebec will help build a new neighborhood and bring people there.
The Legault government is expected to announce this in Rouyn-Noranda on Thursday.
The province will take the opportunity to present the smelter’s next targets for pollutant emissions.
The factory must achieve an arsenic emission limit of 15 nanograms (ng) per cubic meter (m3) within five years. But the company must also adopt a long-term plan to reach the provincial standard of three ng/m3.
Environment Minister Benoit Charette will be in Rouyn-Noranda to present the government action plan and the new ministerial approval which has already been sent to Glencore.
The comprehensive refurbishment is aimed at 191 apartments, which in turn are divided into 90 units, of which 80 are residential units.
Controversial arsenic emission limit
Quebec will maintain the limit of 15 ng/m3 arsenic, although most residents of Rouyn-Noranda consider it too high.
Although public health officials have said the threshold is acceptable until the 3 ng/m3 target can be reached, 57 percent of the population oppose it, according to a public consultation conducted last year. In the Notre-Dame neighborhood, 70 percent of people rejected it.
Glencore and the Quebec government agree that reaching the 3 ng/m3 standard remains out of reach in the short term.
Previously, the Horne Foundry had the right to emit a maximum of 100 ng/m³ of arsenic to air, or 33 times the Quebec standard.
An unacceptable decision, according to QS
Quebec Solidaire (QS), which lost the Rouyn-Noranda-Témiscamingue leadership to the Avenir Québec Coalition in the last election, is calling for a public consultation with locals to discuss the move, as a meeting never took place.
At the end of these consultations, if a step appears inevitable and the population reaches a consensus, the party demands that the Horne Foundry take the bill.
QS co-spokesman Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois expressed his surprise and annoyance in the press box at the National Assembly on Wednesday morning.
“Instead of bringing down the multinational, the CAQ will ask 200 families to pack their bags,” he said. “And on top of that, we’ll be putting public money into the operation as if Glencore International didn’t have the resources to meet Quebec’s environmental commitments.”
“The decision is unacceptable and reflects CAQ’s true priorities on this record.”