Arsenic releases in Rouyn Noranda Ottawa could curb emissions from

Arsenic releases in Rouyn-Noranda | Ottawa could curb emissions from the Horne Smelter

The Trudeau government plans to limit the levels of pollutants in hazardous recyclable materials imported into the country, which could lead to a reduction in arsenic emissions from the Horne foundry in Rouyn-Noranda.

Posted at 12:00 p.m


Jean Thomas Leveille

Jean-Thomas Léveillé The press

On October 20, the Federal Ministry for the Environment and Climate Protection published a call for tenders to obtain “scientific and technical expertise” on the subject.

Ottawa wants to “determine whether certain substances have a connection to waste, recyclable materials or end-of-life products. [et] Validate or set and recommend limit values ​​for [ces] Substances,” explains the document.

“The Horne Foundry is obviously concerned,” said Philippe Ouzilleau, an assistant professor specializing in metallurgy at McGill University, who noted that the tender lists “scrap electronics, batteries, electronic equipment” as recyclable materials that may contain contaminants, which the companies of the multinational Glencore recycle.

The tender also emphasizes that the hazardous substances to be examined can be imported in “solid” or “sludge” form.

The foundry processes a lot of waste sludge in its pyrometallurgical reactors.

Philippe Ouzilleau, Assistant Professor specializing in Metallurgy at McGill University

No limit

Canada does not currently limit the concentration of various pollutants, such as arsenic, contained in hazardous recyclable materials imported into the country – however, an import permit is required to bring materials into Canada that contain more than 2.5% (or 2.5 milligrams per liter). of arsenic.

However, other countries set such limits, such as China, which bans arsenic concentrations of more than 0.5% in imported materials, Philippe Ouzilleau points out.

Horne Foundry receives materials with significantly higher levels of arsenic; For example, it received 2,246 tons of materials with an arsenic concentration of 19.7% in 2020 from an unidentified supplier, its data shows.

These materials were not necessarily imported, however, as 70% of the inputs processed at the Horne foundry come from Canada, the company La Presse said.

Of the 30% imports, two-thirds come from the United States and the remaining third from the rest of the world, said Cindy Caouette, spokeswoman for the company.

Impact on Foundry releases

A potential limit on arsenic levels in the recyclable materials imported by Horne Foundry would likely not allow airborne arsenic levels to be reduced to the Quebec standard of 3 nanograms per cubic meter (ng/m⁠3). believes Philippe Ouzilleau.

“However, I believe it could greatly accelerate success [de la cible gouvernementale de] 15 ng/m⁠3 if this measurement involves effort […] running,” he said.

Such a cap would also have financial implications for Horne Foundry, believes Mr. Ouzilleau.

I imagine they get a good price for ridding companies of these products.

Philippe Ouzilleau

The foundry could ask its suppliers to dilute their materials to meet a certain impurity limit, which is common in the copper industry, the professor notes.

“It’s a practice designed to lower average arsenic emissions as long as the average arsenic content in the ore goes down,” he says.

“However, if you thin, you add weight; maybe it will become terribly less profitable,” posits lawyer Philippe Biuzzi of the Center Québécois du droit de l’environnement.

Ottawa could act immediately

Recourse to external expertise shows that federal officials are questioning their powers, says lawyer Philippe Biuzzi.

“If they’re doing this bidding, it’s because they have uncertainty about the powers of interference of regulations and laws right now,” he said.

However, Canada’s environmental protection law gives them all the necessary room for maneuver, he says.

“If the government wants to set a ceiling, they can do that,” he decides.

However, the required expertise seems difficult to find; Launched by Ottawa in October, the tender replaces a previous tender that was canceled due to a lack of bidders.

Professor Philippe Ouzilleau is not surprised and points out that it could be difficult for a consulting engineering company with this expertise to fulfill such a mandate when it could have contracts with companies affected by a possible limitation.

Although it could have implications for the Horne Foundry, this tender is not “specifically” aimed at it, Environment and Climate Change Secretary Steven Guilbeault’s office told La Presse.

His department “continues to review all available information” to determine if further action is needed regarding the Horne Smelter, his spokeswoman Kaitlin Power said.

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  • 793,718 tons of material to be processed received
    from the Horne Foundry in 2020

    Source: Horne Foundry