ArcelorMittal would have put spokes in the wheels of environmental investigators at the Mont-Wright mining complex, where the multinational has already been fined. Representatives of the steel giant are likely to be personally targeted if the alleged violations, which are disputed by the company, are proven.
Saying she was unable to obtain the requested information, an inspector with Environment and Climate Change Canada convinced a judge to sign two production orders last month. The documents will not come from the Canadian subsidiary of ArcelorMittal, but from two Quebec ministries, which can provide the requested information, according to documents filed at the Montreal courthouse.
The alleged offenses allegedly occurred last September. In her affidavits, the investigator Nathalie Ricard explains that she came up against an inadmissibility in the context of an inspection concerning mining effluents – residues which may contain toxic substances.
“The company mentioned by email that some of the agent’s questions and requests were deemed irrelevant and would not be answered,” she said.
Under a federal directive, the giant established in Luxembourg must annually produce four reports to demonstrate that it meets the requirements on mining effluents in addition to ceasing to discharge substances deemed toxic. It was in this context that the Fishery Officer visited the site in June 2022. She wanted to shed light on allegations of “unauthorized discharges containing harmful substances”, underlines the affidavit.
The alleged facts would contravene the Fisheries Act. Environment and Climate Change Canada’s claims have yet to be tested in court. In an emailed statement, ArcelorMittal communications director Annie Paré said the company was “not served” with the production orders.
“We have not committed any interference in September 2022, she writes, we are fully cooperating with Environment Canada officers. »
At Mont-Wright, the multinational has had its knuckles slapped on more than one occasion when it comes to the environment. Last June, she was sentenced to a fine of 14.5 million after pleading guilty, in the fall of 2021, to more than 90 counts for offenses which spanned from 2011 to 2013. is before the Quebec Court of Appeal.
However, the company would have continued to pollute the waterways located near the complex located on the North Shore, according to a recent sworn statement by an investigator from Environment and Climate Change Canada that La Presse was able to consult. The multinational could thus find itself in a situation of recidivism, which is accompanied by a fine of 1 million per count.
According to the Fisheries Act, in the event of an offense by a body corporate – such as a company – “its officers, directors or agents who ordered or authorized it […] are considered to be joint perpetrators”.
Alain Branchaud, director general of the Society for Nature and Parks (SNAP Quebec), deplores the turn of events. In his view, ArcelorMittal is simply trying to “buy time”.
“She hides information and she appeals when there are fines,” he said. This is just to buy time and discourage the government from doing its job. »
Rather than “fines that bog the state down in endless legal challenges,” Branchaud offers an alternative approach: requiring a temporary shutdown of activities when “self-regulatory responsibility is poorly assumed” to “entrust a third party, at the company’s expense, tracking and disclosing its releases.”