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Neighbourhood concerns inspire town to fight mining claims

January 17th,2024 | Opinion

Sylvie Ott and Martin Belanger deserve a key to the municipality after alerting their neighbours in Low that mining companies have their sights set on their land.

The two Martindale Road residents hosted an information session in Low on Jan. 5 and ran residents through a presentation on mining rights in the area and what property owners can do to protect themselves. The meeting was long overdue, as Low residents have been complaining for months about low-flying helicopters scouting the land and mining company representatives touring properties unannounced. More than 120 residents showed up at the meeting. And the answer they got was, not much.

Mining claims can be purchased by any person or company – even if the land is owned by someone else. Ellen Rice-Hogan, Wally Brownrigg and some 40 other farmers are some of these residents who have noticed more and more claims popping up, as exploration companies look to mine for graphite and lithium to produce EV batteries. Rice-Hogan said that On Track Exploration has claimed more than 500 acres of her Low farm, while Wally Brownrigg expressed concern about how his trout pond will be affected.

More than just alerting residents, this meeting empowered a mayor and an entire town council to take on these mining companies. Low Mayor Carole Robert was at that meeting and later admitted that she has known about the mining claims popping up since the summer but didn’t host any public meetings on the matter. Instead, she worked behind closed doors with fellow mayors in the MRC Vallée-de-laGatineau to protect water sources in the region – a temporary stop gap that prevents mining companies from exploring on lands they’ve made claims on. The moratorium lasts for only six months, expiring this spring.

But after seeing the more than 120 people in attendance and learning that close to 20 per cent of her municipality has now been claimed by mining companies, Robert decided to do more. The Low Mayor passed a resolution at a Jan. 5 council meeting to protect pretty much the entire town of Low, arguing that the area is rich with agricultural and recreational-touristic land, spring-fed lakes and precious water sources like the Gatineau River. The protection would prevent mining companies from digging up minerals – even if they have staked a claim on the land. It’s total protection. But before Low gets its protection, this has to be approved by the MRC and the province’s Ministry of Environment. The MRC is working on a larger protection pitch that it will send to the ministry for approval.

Low council also struck a mining rights committee and named councillors Maureen Rice and Maureen McEvoy to helm it. But this all started because two concerned residents – who are not experts on the matter – wanted to share their knowledge and help their neighbours.

We need more people like Ott and Belanger. This is what neighbours do.

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