Profile: David Robinson, Green Party, Sudbury
The following questions were circulated to all Sudbury and Nickel Belt Candidates seeking their responses to our key questions. The list below are answers we received. -No Ferrochrome Sudbury
There is a good possibility that a thorough environmental review of the proposed
Sudbury ferrochrome smelter site would find that there is too little research on serious
risks to be mitigated, especially in terms of chromium.
Would you consider advising the smelter project be shelved and revaluated after a thorough
environmental review is
Clearly there is too little research. Projects that may release toxics must be
reviewed prior to permitting. This requires changes in Provincial legislation
that the Green party has long been committed to.
This is a private sector project. We, as the public can’t “shelf” it. Under
current legislation, we can’t even stop it.
The data we have reviewed comparing the Outukumpu smelter site in Finland showed that it bares little to no resemblance to the proposed Coniston site (the Finnish site is 10 km away from the nearest population, on an enormous, brackish body of water and away from fragile ecosystems and drinking water). Here in Sudbury, the effects begin within a 2 km radius of Coniston and would spread over the New Sudbury area, around Lake Ramsey and into Richard Lake and the Vermillion River watershed area, not to mention the close proximity of the proposed site to the New Sudbury water intake. We are concerned that such a large population of our municipality would be subjected to these significant risks associated with ferrochrome smelting. (We have compiled peer-reviewed information as well as maps supplied by the city to support our concerns and are happy to share with you for your assessment). What are your thoughts on these discrepancies, the potential risks associated with this particular site and how do you see your role as part of the provincial government in assisting with accurately assessing the public health risk? Also, should it be determined that there is a significant risk to public health, will you be willing to take a stance publicly against developing a ferrochrome smelter at this proposed site?
Outukompu is irrelevant. The province must assess projects that may
release toxics before permitting. If there are significant risks the projects
must be reviewed or denied.
The municipal government has submitted a proposal to Noront to encourage it to locate the ferrochrome smelter here. This has involved lowered costs in electricity and other concessions that amount to considerable subsidies.
Do you see a role for the province in ensuring that the costs are adequately assessed before going ahead with the project?
Electricity is a bit complex. The actual marginal cost is below current base supply
cost, so I am not convinced this is a useful argument. I do not think the province
should subsidize any input to a private business, however, and this includes
Let’s go a bit farther. The Green party proposes road charges as well. Currently we
will subsidize this smelter though road costs and carbon permits. This has to be
Noront has been able to evaluate four sites and fairly autonomously decide which site would be chosen before evaluation of environmental and health risks of the project.
Given that the provincial legislation does not have policies that deal directly with around chromium and this type of facility nor experience in evaluating its effects, what do you think needs to be done to ensure a rigorous evaluation process?
I have long advocated systematic environmental monitoring that provides
baseline information. I believe that we need need to know chromium levels
before any project adding chromium to the environment is allowed. I believe that
we have to have studies of the behaviour of chromium in our environment before
permitting a smelter. I would push for further and ongoing research on this based
at Laurentian. The province does not have the monitoring nor the regulatory
capacity needed, and, as I mentioned above, the Green Party has long advocated
strengthening Provincial capacity for environmental protection.
What would you do to ensure that the entire process of production of stainless steel from
mining to the making of the final product did not cause environmental damage? The federal government is currently evaluating an updated environmental review process which considers more broad-based, proactive evaluations that are regional and strategic. That means the whole production process from mining to smelting process would be reviewed. This would take time.
Would you be willing to seek a federal strategic review even though it might delay the setting up of the ferrochrome smelter?
This is a provincial issue. The province should deal with it. Going to the Federal
level is tactical and really an issue for local citizens. There is lots of time before any
smelter can go into production with if the Province wants to start the necessary
Chromium can easily become Chrome VI and we know that it can cause damage both to the
environment and animal and human health. The effects on humans may not show up as cancer until
many years have passed. We need more research. The process is lengthy and time-consuming as
there are many complex interactions that can occur to change Chromium III to VI and sometimes
reverse the process.
Could you see a role for the provincial environmental review process that would allow for the necessary research into setting up the most appropriate process before agreeing to go ahead with
Obviously if I were the Minister of the Environment I would unilaterally
fund the baseline studies and give notice that the legislation would be
modified to ensure projects that emit any amount of toxics have to satisfy
the Province that there is no significant health hazard.
I would also fund expanded environmental programs in universities to
ensure the is the capacity and the skilled people in place to support
inspection and regulation, and would invest in industrial research to
I would also change the legislation to no longer allow firms to self monitor
New and emerging monitoring technology cut the costs of monitoring
enormously. Ontario had an environmental protection policy that was
pretty good by world standards in the 1980s. the fact is that we are
heading for the 2020s and our approach to environmental protection
remains firmly in the last Century
Can you address the value of the jobs that would possibly be gained through setting up the ferrochrome smelter and the danger of exposure to Chromium VI and in light of the overall job creation strategies for the municipality and for Northern Ontario?
How can we ensure that this interrelated mining process is sustainable and resistant to the effects of climate change?
This is actually several questions.
Address the value of the jobs:
With the expected expansion the smelter will bring about 1000 jobs to the region. Specialist capacity will expand the range of skills we export.
The danger of exposure to Chromium VI:
Given the state of the research there are clearly potential health risks for
residents. Given the age of the population of the region most jobs are likely to be
filled by outsiders.
Overall the proposed smelter would be a significant boost to the regional and city
How can we ensure that this interrelated mining process is sustainable?
The mining portion too the project is irrelevant for Sudbury. It will happen
somewhere else whether the smelter is located in Sudbury or not.
Sustainability for non-renewable resources is a question of whether the total
capital value of social assets in maintained. This means that the net value of the
asset must be invested in production capita – for example human capital in the
form of education.
Currently Ontario has among the lowest mineral royalties in the world, with the
result that the public collects little to none of the value of the asset. The province
is simply running down an asset. This is not sustainable ( unless the shareholders
in the corporations use their profits to create productive capital. they don’t.) The
Green Party is the only part calling for increased mineral royalties.
Sorry for the lecture on the technical meaning of sustainability: this is what i teach
in my Resource Economics course.
Climate Change: It s not clear to me how the project is particularly vulnerable to
climate change. In any case, the only way that you can resend to the threat of
climate change in this election is by voting Green.
Having both the provincial and federal environmental legislation applied to evaluation of the ferrochrome smelter would provide the best protection. The mining company, Noront, has said that they would provide for an environmental evaluation but we cannot be sure that this would be adequately followed through.
Would you be willing to press for involvement of both the provincial and federal environmental review processes especially with the inadequacy of the company’s self-monitoring of the environmental review?
Self-monitoring is simply not acceptable anymore. A public program to provide citizens with low-cost monitoring technology and a requirement that companies mount public monitors on stacks and water outflows is the modern way to proceed.
The issue is Provincial and I don’t want to see the responsibility defused –
that is the way to get inaction.
What are you and your party prepared to do to ensure that indigenous communities in the north within the Ring of Fire and the communities now being considered for the ferrochrome smelter have a voice in the environmental evaluation?
We have called for regional government in the area and for resource revenues to be shared by the people across the north. Both of these build First Nations capacity.
The leaders of the First Nations Communities are concerned about environmental issues but most have publicly supported development. It is not Green Party policy, but I support having the development process guided by a regional government in the Northwest. The population would be almost entirely First Nation members initially.