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Coalition of Mohawks and farmers say opposition to Niocan's niobium mine growing
By: The Canadian Press
Posted: 29/11/2010 1:40 PM
Last Modified: 29/11/2010 2:06 PM
KANESATAKE, Que. - Opposition is growing to Niocan's (TSX:NIO) planned niobium mining project in Oka, a suburb north of Montreal, a coalition of Mohawks, farmers and local political leaders said Monday.
The Mohawk Council of Kanesatake, the Montreal traditional council, the Union des producteurs agricoles of Deux Montagnes and local citizens said more than 5,600 people have signed a petition against the proposed underground mining project.
"We are here today to tell you, again, that we do not want the niobium mine in Oka," Nicolas Villeneuve, president of the local agricultural trade union, said in a news release.
Niocan plans to operate an underground ferroniobium mine in Oka's Saint-Sophie range. The mine would be in operation for 17 years and would occupy about 6.4 hectares of arable land.
Niobium, also known as columbium, is a rare exotic soft metal that resembles steel or platinum when polished. It resists corrosion and can maintain its qualities at very high temperatures.
Demand for the metal has doubled in the last decade.
The coalition said the project would disrupt the local landscape.
A representative of the coalition of local citizens' committees said the mine would have a negative impact on the local tourism industry.
Simon Dubois also said 165 promised mining jobs won't compensate for the deterioration of quality of life and impact on hundreds of farms and small businesses.
The Mohawks said the Niocan project is located within the Seigniory of the Lake of Two Mountains, which is currently the subject of territorial negotiations with the federal government.
"Until an agreement is reached, the governments should impose a moratorium on any development project that could have a negative impact on the rights of the Mohawk," said Grand Chief Paul Nicholas Sohenrise.
Ellen Gabriel, spokeswoman for the Mohawk traditional council —Longhouse, said Canada is legally obliged to "consult and accommodate aboriginal peoples in serious matters affecting their rights.
"The proposed Niocan project is a serious violation of the collective rights of the Mohawk people of Kanesatake whose self-determining right is protected under the Constitution Act of 1982", she stated.
Oka was the scene of a standoff that lasted several months in 1990 over a land dispute between a group of Mohawk people and the town over a golf course and housing development. A policeman died during the standoff.
Niocan is trying to convince the Quebec government to grant the necessary permits to start work. The company couldn't be immediately reached for comment.
The project, which was launched in late 1990, has provoked opposition from those who fear it will lower groundwater in the area and discharge uranium.
Since 1998, Niocan has invested more than $10 million in preparatory work for the project. In 2000, it estimated that $110 million would be spent on construction of the mine over two years.
A KPMG study conducted in 2000 said the mine would generate $781 million of economic benefits in Quebec during its nearly 20-year life. The Oka region would receive $35 million per year.
On the Toronto Stock Exchange, Niocan's shares lost one cent, or three per cent, to 32 cents in afternoon trading.
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