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Mine your own business!

January 17th,2024 | Municipal News, News

Low is gearing up to protect its land, lakes, streams and the Gatineau River from mining companies who have set their sights on extracting lithium and graphite from the region.

During its Jan. 8 council meeting, several concerned landowners showed up to see what they can do to protect their land from companies who have already staked claims on their land – and to question why the information wasn’t relayed to taxpayers sooner when Mayor Carole Robert admitted that she knew about the companies staking claims as early as summer 2023.

“How come it was two concerned citizens that put on a meeting and not council?” resident Ellen Rice-Hogan said to Mayor Carole Robert. She was referring to a Jan. 5 information session on mining activities, which was put on by Martindale Road residents Sylvie Ott and Martin Belanger. “If you’ve known yourself, Carole, since, what, September, give or take?”

Robert told the crowd that she has known about the mining claims since summer when a resident spotted a mining company representative on his land. Councillors say they were not aware of the mininc claims until the fall of 2023.

Robert said mayors from the 17 municipalities that make up the MRC Vallée-de-la-Gatineau got together in September and passed a resolution to protect water sources across the region. That protection was accepted by the Ministère des Ressources naturelles et des Forêts and took effect in September. But the protection is only temporary and will expire in March.

That’s why, at its Jan. 8 council meeting, Low passed another resolution to protect “agriculture, forests, recreational properties, as well as lakes, streams and the Gatineau River,” from mining claims. The resolution will now go to the MRC, which is building a bigger protection pitch to protect much of the MRC from mining activities. Low also struck a mining committee and named councillors Maureen Rice and Maureen McEvoy to represent the town.

Robert said the mining claim boom in the region began with a massive claim near Manitou Lake, which was made on Crown land. Since then, claims have been popping up all over the region, most of them by mining companies Brunswick Exploration, Lomiko Metals and On Track Exploration.

By press time, 96 claims had been staked in Low, equaling close to 15,000 acres of land throughout the municipality.

“That’s 20 per cent of your municipality that is potentially going to be affected by this,” Rice-Hogan informed the mayor.

Rice-Hogan told the Low Down that On Track Exploration has claimed 538 acres on her Low farm – claims that popped up sometime between September and December of 2023.

“It’s so scary,” said Rice- Hogan, flipping through maps to show where the claims have been staked. “It’s a large portion of the property.”

Resident Wally Brownrigg is another resident who has claims on his land. The longtime Low resident says he’s spent close to 50 years on his farm, developing forestry management plans, plantations and a trout pond that flows through the property.

“One inch of that area is equivalent to two million gallons of water going into my trout pond,” he said. “If they dig me up and do that mining, it’s not going to be too good. I own this property and have invested my life into this.”

The mining companies are targeting graphite and lithium used to produce EV car batteries. During the information session held by Ott and Belanger, landowners were encouraged to purchase mining claims on their own property. Anyone can purchase a mining claim using an online registry for as little as $75 – even if that land is owned by someone else. Land claimers are not obligated to notify a landowner if they purchase a claim.

This is what has happened to residents like Rice-Hogan and Brownrigg.

Mining claims are valid for up to three years. Quebec’s Mining Act states that landowners have the right to refuse exploration on their land, although in some cases, expropriation may be possible. Companies may use helicopters to carry out survey work, even without the landowner’s permission.

Low’s pitch to save its territory from mining will go to the MRC later this month before a full protection plan for the MRC is submitted to the ministry

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At the Low Down, we are passionate about delivering quality local news to Gatineau Hills residents. But passion alone cannot pay the bills.

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