Horne Foundry: 'Between the Tree and the Bark', Employees Demand Transparency | Arsenic Rouyn-Noranda

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Horne Foundry: “”between the tree and the bark”, employees demand transparency | Arsenic Rouyn-Noranda

They are worried about their health and that of their families, but also about the risk of closing the factory.

Stéphane Larente, president of the Noranda Mine Workers Union (STMN–CSN)

ROUYN-NORANDA – Health, but also livelihood. These are the two concerns expressed to Radio-Canada by the representative of the Horne Foundry workers, during his first public outing since the pollution of the factory made headlines in Quebec. The union is calling on Glencore and the Legault government for the greatest technically possible reduction of arsenic in the air.

We are worried about both, confesses the president of the Noranda Mine Workers Union (STMN-CSN), Stéphane Larente, we are caught between a rock and a hard place. He mentions the threat of closure of the Foundry, expressed by François Legault, but also recent studies on the excess risk of lung cancer in Rouyn-Noranda.

We have several people who work at the Foundry who stay in the Notre-Dame district, close to the factory, he recalls. In this regard, he regrets that the emissions ceiling imposed on the foundry of 100 nanograms of arsenic per cubic meter (ng/m3) in the air is not more demanding.

“On sanitation rates, there has been a lot of laxity in the past. […] We haven't done everything possible. »

— Stéphane Larente, President of the Noranda Mine Workers Union (STMN-CSN)

However, he does not believe that the Quebec standard of 3 nanograms is realistic without jeopardizing the viability of the company.

“C' x27; is impossible to do 3 [ng/m3] tomorrow. If we have to, we close. To know the process and my factory well, it is obvious that we would not reach that tomorrow morning. »

— Stéphane Larente, President of the Noranda Mine Workers Union (STMN-CSN)

It's impossible to do it if we don't do it gradually, he believes.

According to Stéphane Larente, there is a lack of transparency on the part of Glencore and the government. He would like to get figures to know the feasibility of reducing emissions: What reduction is achievable in one year, two years, three years, etc.? he asks.

The union recalls that 650 people work at the foundry with very good salaries (between $100,000 and $150,000 per year), not to mention all the SMEs that live thanks to it and the income it generates for the Municipality.< /p>

It also suggests that the viability of the CCR refinery in Montreal will be threatened if the Horne Smelter closes, since it receives its copper anodes.

Stéphane Larente is angry with the solidarity MP for Rouyn-Noranda-Témiscamingue and the singer-songwriter Richard Desjardins who said that the region's economy is capable of recovering from a closure of the Foundry. She won't get my vote, he says of Émilise Lessard-Therrien.

The company generates economic benefits from a half a billion dollars a year for Quebec and it paid $100 million in taxes to the province last year.

The Horne Foundry produces copper anodes from copper concentrates and recycled electronic materials (old computers, cell phones, toasters, etc.) which are heated to very high temperatures. It is Canada's only copper smelter.

The plant is owned by Swiss multinational Glencore, which reported profits of US$5 billion last year. x27;last year.

Citizens plan to demonstrate this evening, at the Rouyn-Noranda municipal council, to demand that the City take a clear and unambiguous position in favor of compliance with the 3 ng/m3 standard.

The company says it is ready to invest up to $500 million to meet new requirements, but only if the government helps. Prime Minister François Legault said he was ready to help, but for a minority share of the bill.

In the Notre-Dame district, a resident dies on average five years earlier than the rest of Quebecers. Doctors from Abitibi-Témiscamingue, supported by the College of Physicians of Quebec, recently called for swift government action to improve air quality in Rouyn-Noranda.

A 2019 report had previously suggested these risks for lung cancer, but the part of the document that dealt with this subject had been withdrawn from publication, at the request of the former national director of public health Horacio Arruda. These revelations by Radio-Canada continue to arouse indignation, especially since the arguments put forward by Dr. Arruda to defend himself from having wanted to hide anything have been contradicted.

Negotiations are underway between the Ministry of the Environment and the company to set the new ceiling. The parties must agree before the end of November on an emissions cap. Several scenarios are considered, but none is without effect on health.

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