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Sayona says proposed lithium mine near Mistissini would help fight climate change

BY Ben Powless Sep 14, 2022

At Mistissini’s recent AGA, Sayona Mining Limited argued that their proposed Moblan Lithium mine would be part of efforts to combat global warming, as lithium is one of the principal elements in technology like electric cars and rechargeable batteries.

“We want to contribute to the fight against climate change,” said Sayona’s Chief Sustainable Development Officer, Cindy Valence. “We want to be the first lithium producer in North America.” She pointed to statements by the Quebec government of its intentions to build a lithium battery supply chain in the province. 

The proposed mine lies about 100km north of Chibougamau and about 85km from Mistissini, accessible via the Route-du-Nord. In January 2022, the company acquired 121 claims 3.5km west of the Moblan site, spanning over 6,500 hectares. 

In announcing the findings of its drilling program, Sayona’s Managing Director, Brett Lynch stated: “These latest results are another boost to our emerging lithium hub, demonstrating Moblan’s potential to become a world-class deposit in a proven lithium region.”

Valence said the company had five projects in the area, including two in Eeyou Istchee and three in Abitibi-Témiscamingue, which she said represented 25% of the known lithium resources in North America.

Sayona Mining Director Steve Simard also said at the AGA that the company bought a 60% stake in the Moblan project in October 2021. He said the company was working at environmental restoration at the same time it was doing exploration.

Valence said the company aims to increase its connection with the Crees, and to have Mistissini as a partner in the project. “We also have a good communication and approach with tallymen. We just hired Darlene Macleod as a liaison officer to do a bridge between the community and our organization,” she said. 

Valence said they would continue discussions with the band council, while also aiming to put together a stakeholder committee with people from the community. The company is also in talks with the Nibiischii corporation. “How can we model this project with all of them to make sure this project will respect the land and the protected park?” she asked.

The company supports a woman’s group in the Algonquin community of Pikogan engaged in arts and crafts, according to Valence. She said that the company would like to promote local hiring “soon” and contribute to the growth of the economy. 

Representatives for Sayona did not respond to a request for comment. Mistissini Deputy Chief John Matoush declined to comment, saying that as a newly elected chief and council, they were still getting to know the company and unable to respond as a council.

Other First Nations in the Abitibi area have been critical of Sayona’s practices, with Long Point First Nation calling for more comprehensive environmental reviews. They say they are concerned about the impact of open-pit mining on Lake Simard, which their community depends upon. 

Long Point Chief Steeve Mathias said the mine would impact their way of life, joining a petition that collected over 20,000 signatures to stop Sayona’s proposed lithium mine. “We’re not just going to sit by and let things happen. We’ve been here forever and we’re not planning to let any company just exploit the land as they wish,” Mathias told the Nation in an April interview.

Lithium mines can consume vast amounts of water while creating millions of cubic metres of waste that can contaminate groundwater with antimony and arsenic. Many lithium mines are developed as open-pit mines, which are more environmentally devastating than other options.

by Ben Powless, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

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Ben Powless is a Kanien'kehá:ka and Anishnabek writer and photographer, currently living in Ottawa. He has a degree in Human Rights, Indigenous and Environmental Studies from Carleton University.