The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.
A group of concerned citizens, comprised of people who are all “pro-Cliffs,” will hold a public meeting Oct. 15 in Capreol to strike a formal committee to hold the company’s and government’s feet to the fire on the issue of environmental health and safety.
Retired mining health and safety activist Homer Seguin said half a dozen citizens, including former longtime New Democrat MPP Elie Martel, have been meeting to discuss Cliffs Natural Resources’ plan to build a ferrochrome processing plant north of Capreol.
“We’re pro-Cliffs,” said Seguin, “because the jobs are welcome. But first and foremost comes safety.” Cliffs announced in May it plans to build a $1.8-billion smelter at the former Moose Mountain Mine site to process chromite ore the Clevelandbased company will mine in the Ring of Fire.
The committee’s support will come with the condition that the plant be built and operated so as not to adversely affect the health of its employees, and the air and water in the city, said Seguin. Little is known about chromite processing, said Seguin, and that’s something at which a formalized committee would examine.
There are ferrochrome processing plants in developing nations, where health and safety standards aren’t as stringent as Canada’s.
The committee will be looking at a ferrochrome processing plant in Finland, a country known for being progressive when it comes to health and the environment.
It would also want to offer comment during the environmental assessment being done before Cliffs begins mining and eventually processing ore from its Ring of Fire deposits.
The group wants to ensure the processing plant is built using the safest and most modern technology, said Seguin, who worked for years with United Steelworkers to reduce the accident rate and the rate of industrial disease among the union’s members.
The committee won’t be a union one, said Seguin, because all residents of the city are affected by potential air and water pollution.
“We don’t know what else is in the (chromite) ore,” although it does contain some nickel, silica and sulphur, said Seguin.
The committee is also inter-e sted in the mining part of Cliffs’ operation and will work with people in northwestern Ontario to ensure the ore is mined safely, he said.
Much of the chromite in the Ring of Fire, about 500 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay, is located under bogs, said Seguin. There is concern that disturbing the material, which absorbs harmful metals, will stir up mercury that may have been deposited in its roots.
Cliffs announced recently it was pushing back its timeline to begin mining its Black Thor deposit to 2016, a year later than originally scheduled.
Black Thor is in the feasibility phase of development as Cliffs continues talks with First Nations and moves toward the environmental assessment stage.
The Oct. 15 meeting will be held at the Capreol Millennium Resource Centre, 24 Meehan St., at 7 p.m.
Seguin urges people from throughout Greater Sudbury to attend the meeting.
For the web version of this article, please go to the Sudbury Star website: http://www.thesudburystar.com/2012/10/05/pro-cliffs-group-worried