A large group of environmentally concerned citizens, opposed to mining company Noront’s plans to build a ferrochrome smelter in Sault Ste. Marie, packed a room at The Water Tower Inn Saturday to share their concerns and plan next steps in their campaign against the project.
“How can we allow a ferrochrome facility in a city that has already been flagged as one of five cities in Ontario with the highest rates of cancer?” said Pedro Antunes, an Algoma University biologist, addressing the audience.
“Why produce it in the middle of the city?” Antunes said (the facility to be built near Algoma Steel), challenging industrial claims the ferrochrome facility will be environmentally safe.
“The water pollution they produce at the Tornio plant (operated by stainless steel producer Outokumpu in Tornio, Finland) is seven kilograms a day, and five kilograms a day of cyanide (according to Outokumpu’s own reports),” said Sault Area Hospital physician Dr. Robert Suppes.
“I routinely see people in the emergency room who have had three completely separate cancers. I didn’t realize that was possible until I came to the Sault. It’s distressing to me to look at having another heavy industry coming to this town that could potentially increase an already high cancer rate,” said Suppes, who, along with a group of fellow local physicians, wrote a letter to municipal leaders outlining their concerns over a local ferrochrome facility.
“I was for it, but after having done some research, the potential for an environmental incident and risk to our health is not worth this plant coming here...none of the politicians locally have given me the confidence they’ve done their fact checking. It’s just impossible for anyone to say this is 100 per cent safe and it will not impact our lives,” commented attendee Roy Kreutzberger.
“The fact we have to gather here and inform ourselves is really disappointing in my opinion. We need to hold our councillors and our politicians to a higher standard. I’m not willing to put anyone’s health at risk for any amount of dollars,” Kreutzberger said.
Another factor to consider is the potential environmental dangers a ferrochrome plant poses to the Sault’s U.S. neighbours, said Kathie Brosemer, Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians environmental program manager (who attended Saturday’s forum as a concerned citizen, not officially speaking for the Tribe).
Next steps agreed upon by Saturday’s forum attendees include:
- Prepare a fact sheet
A paper petition opposing the smelter to be circulated throughout the community
A letter campaign to elected officials
Support and engage with First Nations communities in the area, including Garden River, Batchewana and others along the North Shore, as well as Bay Mills and the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians
Demand a requirement for environmental assessments from provincial and federal environment ministers
In a well-informed manner, attend Noront’s first public consultation to be held Oct. 23
Though Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Mike Mantha and Sara McCleary, Sault NDP candidate and Geo McLean, Green Party candidate, were in attendance, event co-organizer Peter Greve mentioned there was a notable absence of elected officials at the forum, along with an absence of young people.
Noront officially announced May 7 its ferrochrome plant, to be located near Algoma Steel, will process chrome ore from deposits the mining company will be drawing from the Ring of Fire region, to be converted into ferrochrome for the U.S. stainless steel market.
Noront estimates construction of the ferrochrome production facility will begin in 2025, the plant up and running by 2028.
During construction, the project will employ up to 1,500 people, and once in operation, employ 300 to 500 people.