Despite a ringing endorsement from city council for a Noront ferrochrome processing plant, some stakeholders are expressing concern over the safety of the smelter and its impacts on human health.
Mayor Brian Bigger travelled to Europe earlier this year to check out the Outokumpu ferrochrome production facility in Tornio, Finland. Following his visit, the mayor said he has no concerns about the safety or health impacts of an arc furnace.
“I have no concerns,” Bigger said in February. “That’s the level of confidence I wanted to come back with, with the entire team. We asked questions of all of the people we met, looking for any concerns whatsoever on their part. We found none. On my part, I have full confidence in welcoming a ferrochrome facility into our community. I think it’ll go well with our plans to diversify our economy and attract investment to create jobs. It fits in with the long-term strategy of growing our community.”
But Ugo Lapointe, a spokesperson for MiningWatch Canada, said no ferrochrome plant is totally safe. No mining process is 100 per cent clean.
“There will always be some level of pollution,” he said. “It’s always a challenge for proponents to control the dust emissions from the various operations, as well as the stack emissions.”
Hexavalent chromium, which is produced during the smelting process, is “very toxic,” Lapointe said. “It’s in the same category as asbestos, for example, or tobacco or things like that,” he said.
Hexavalent chromium easily binds with human tissues, he said.”The reality is you can never control 100 per cent of pollution,” Lapointe said.
There are reasons to be concerned. According to research conducted by MiningWatch, skin contact with hexavalent chromium can cause inflammation, eczema, open sores and allergic contact dermatitis.
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