Northvolt has begun deforestation and destruction of wetlands in preparation for the construction of its factory. And even though some of these take place in the dark, the company ensures that it can monitor the presence of wild animals on site.
After receiving the green light from the Legault government to fill numerous biodiversity-rich wetlands, the Swedish company received a tree felling permit from the municipality of Saint-Basile-le-Grand last Friday.
That approval was granted three days before Monday night's City Council meeting, where residents called on elected officials to require an environmental impact assessment of the project. “One thing is clear: As long as no studies have been carried out on the ecological, social and economic impacts of the construction of the Northvolt factory, the project will not find social acceptance,” argues Sabrina Guilbert, co-spokeswoman of the Citizen Action Committee – Northvolt Project.
She recalls that about 8,000 trees will be cut down and that more than 130,000 square meters of wetlands will disappear to make way for this factory financed by Quebec and Ottawa.
However, the mayor of Saint-Basile-le-Grand, Yves Lessard, responded to citizens' questions on Monday evening, pointing out that the municipality does not intend to request an environmental impact assessment of the project, which is likely to involve an examination by the Bureau d' Bureau would include. Audience. Public Authorities for the Environment (BAPE). The city wants to “further develop this sector,” he added, emphasizing that in his opinion the battery component factory project benefits from “social acceptance” in the region. This topic is usually addressed at BAPE hearings.
While citizens were present in the local council on Monday evening, deforestation work was already underway on the Northvolt site. According to the company, tree felling takes place from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., “in accordance with municipal regulations.” Instead, the council's website states that the work will “take place Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm”, over a period of six weeks.
The work therefore sometimes takes place in the dark. Still, the company claims it has the ability to monitor the presence of wildlife in areas where forests and wetlands are being destroyed.
“Before starting work, the biologist will first carry out a check in each of the identified areas to confirm the presence of animals. If no animal is identified, the biologist will confirm to workers that they can proceed,” the company wrote in an email. If necessary, the animal in question can be moved, Northvolt added in its written response.
A wildlife inventory carried out on behalf of the company made it possible to “confirm the presence of several painted turtles and snapping turtles on the site,” according to a document obtained by Le Devoir. Since the site preparation work is planned during these turtles' hibernation period, they should be buried alive.
Tree felling must be completed before spring so that Northvolt can comply with the Migratory Birds Convention Act of 1994, which prohibits work during the breeding season. The habitat that these animals previously used could be destroyed as a result. Several dozen bird species live here, some of which are threatened.
The Legault government authorized Northvolt to destroy an area of wetland twice as large as another construction project on the same site had rejected less than a year ago. Environment Ministry experts then justified their decision by emphasizing the country's rich biodiversity, the essential nature of the natural environment for the region and the “impressive diversity” of the local fauna.
In a document dated March 2023, the ministry, which has just approved Northvolt's work, emphasizes that the planned loss of wetlands would “impair the biodiversity conservation function that the wetlands present on the site perform by causing destruction large areas of diverse habitats. “Food, protection and reproduction of living species.”
Official data provided to Le Devoir by the Quebec government shows the presence of 21 threatened or endangered species, as well as 142 bird species. In this context, a green light for the real estate project proposed on the site would have weakened “the connectivity links between the region’s natural environments,” according to government experts.