I asked Noront CEO Alan Coutts last week post the Noront townhall meeting regarding concerns about the plant proposed for the Soo, and it’s environmental spinoff. His assessment about the turnout was that “it was what was needed; we had I would say about a couple hundred people come through, and it wasn’t the ones that were satisfied with the regulators role or confident with the process” (they for the most part didn’t attend).
The people in the audience he said, were mostly people with questions about the science, the environment, and questions about human health and the plants effect. “I like to think we answered questions the best we could, but it’s still pretty early in the stage”. Alan said that since they were still in the design aspects of the plant, a lot of the questions could not be answered until they reached a certain preliminary stage. “We will get those answers over time, but we are in the very early days right now to get these difficult questions answered this early.”
I asked him about social media being a big driving force these days behind campaigns to ‘Stop This’ or ‘Stop That’. The gov’t ultimately will decide or not if the plant comes to fruition and not Noront bulldozing their way through. He responded. “I think we really got our point across and we had got that message out and whether people were prepared to hear it or not was up to them. We just asked the people to give us some to get them the facts and when they are presented with the facts, base their decision around them and not an emotional response or something they read on the internet.”
The Noront group also had experts to address the crowd and Michael McCafferry the Global Director of Hatch addressed the crowd that “the ferrochrome industry is very mature” and Noront is not using the Soo as an experiment.
I asked him about hearing that some people are upset about the plant in Finland that the Sudbury delegation visited and the fact that is is fourty years old. “The plant in Finland in no way reflects our plant whether on ink, or engineering. Our proposed plant is fundementally a different plant and a different process. That is what these meetings are for ; it gives the concerned people and groups a chance to ask and get their answers directly. Like I said, the people that are not concerned with the process etc, were primarily absent, but the ones who came out were asking questions and I feel we did a good job addressing them.”
Before Alan, caught his plane, he did say he felt good that Noront may have won over some people and that is why townhalls are good and that more will be planned. He also said, “you know we as a company have a reputation to uphold and we think we have a good one with other communities we work with….. this is something we have also been saying… if we can’t do this in a way that is safe for the citizens of the Soo,” safe environmentally, safe for our employees… we’re not going to do it.”