“If We Don’t Take a Stance Now, It Will Be Too Late;” Saultites Protest Ferrochrome Smelter

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Ferrochrome Protest
Photo by Megan Pounder/SaultOnline

Saultites on both sides of the border gathered in unity on Saturday afternoon to protest the proposed ferrochrome smelter plant, set to be located on Algoma Steel property starting in 2025, and up and running by 2028.

Locally, approximately 30 people were at the boardwalk by the Delta Hotel, whilst a large group gathered at Ashmun and Portage in Michigan as well to show their support.

“We’re protesting because we do not want a ferrochrome smelter production facility erected in our community, let alone on our fresh water,” protest organizer and No Ferrochrome Plant Sault Ste. Marie FB page admin Lebertine Wilson told SaultOnline.

Wilson said it feels empowering to be part of the driving force behind what, to her knowledge, is the first Canadian-American protest of its kind. Her American counterpart, Tamantha, runs the No Ferrochrome Solidarity Facebook page, which has 150 members.

“I’m smiling more and more as I look around, it’s a little more heartwarming to know,” she said of the turnout.

“I understand it’s cold, but if we don’t take a stance now, it will be too late. The shovels will be in the ground, and there’s no stopping it after that.”

Concerns from protesters included the future of the Great Lakes and the Sault, as well as future generations and the impacts the smelter will have on the environment.

For Elizabeth MacMillan and her son, Jaiduce, the future is a concern.

“I want a good future for me to grow up in,” Jaiduce said.

“I’m here to support not just my kids, but everyone’s children,” MacMillan said.

“There’s been a lot of environmental destruction and damage all in the name of profit, and I just want to prove that the people matter more than the profit.”

MacMillan, who does a lot of educational gardening in schools, said she’s also concerned about water and soil health.

“Anything where we’re adding pollutants to the air – it’s just a recipe for disaster,” she explained.

“We’re also trying to amplify our agriculture around the region – another polluting industry is not going to help that.”

For Bonnie Jewell Barenski, the Sault has been her home for 35 years and is now the home of her children and grandchildren, whom she wants to have the same opportunities she’s had.

“I feel that we live in one of the most pristine, beautiful areas of Ontario. We’re at the hub of the Great Lakes, we benefit from nature, we benefit from the waters, being able to go 10-15 minutes out of town and be at a beautiful beach and swim,” she said.

“Everything I read about this ferrochrome plant and the chromium smelter tells me that (my family) won’t have those opportunities, that it’s poisonous to the land, to the water and the particles are also in the air. So I think we need to stop this, in a peaceful and educated manner.”

Barenski said she also thinks both ecotourism and the housing market in the Sault will suffer with the addition of the smelter plant.

“No one’s going to plan their vacation to spend two weeks next to a ferrochrome plant and the things that flow from it and blow away from it. So right away you’re cutting down one of the things that is going to be one of the major sources of revenue here in the Sault,”  she said.

“Another thing that you have to look at is, let’s say you want to leave, because that’s what people are saying to us: ‘if you don’t like it, leave.’ Well who’s going to buy my house when they know there’s a possibility of a plant coming? They’re going to say ‘no, we don’t want to live there.’ So right away I’m going to lose if I decide that I want to sell my house, I’m going to have to take it at a loss. And I shouldn’t have to anyways; this is my home. I’ve lived here 35 years.

“And that’s something I think that City Council and the Mayor are not looking at – the really long-term issues of this plant. Yes, it will provide jobs, but there are so many health concerns, there are all kinds of things attached to those jobs, and it’s just not worth it.”

66 COMMENTS

  1. Nice to know all these people are engineers and basing their conclusions on a yet unseen design for the ferrochrome plant, instead, basing their conclusions on a very outdated design overseas, or a movie a couple of decades old.

  2. Our Mayor , not listening to the people ? Do the people have a say Mr Mayor ? My feelings or opinion don’t matter , but if majority of people in SSM, DON’T want it, we should have the final say or vote on it. The people need to rule on this …

    • Chris Spring I think we should open a t shirt factory,they can be made out of hand woven hemp,and have “make love not ferochrome “on the back and a big hemp leaf on the front….

    • Richard Dear Finally, someone seeing more potential and business opportunities! Great suggestion Richard! See, you don’t need the ferrochrome plant people of the Sault, ask Richard! Cheers to the best fishing! Nice motto, I will pass it on and give you credit!! I am serious, we need new signs and that motto is clever…needs another “r” though!

  3. Just shut up already… everyone bitches because there’s no work in the Soo. There going to be at least 400 jobs once this gets going, and it will. Be thankful the the Soo has this opportunity instead of finding something else to bitch about

    • Most of the jobs will not go to locals! We do not have an abundance of people with smelting expertise here! Furthermore, our unemployment rate is at a record low. We should not settle for dirty, dangerous jobs.

  4. The city is failing……the steel industry is failing….its all being failed by it’s own people by not letting other industries in to grow …..I can see Sault Ste. Marie going downhill from here

    • I think not! Even the reps from Ferrochrome and Noront said that they did not yet have any existing technology that would allow the plant to operate without poisoning the people and the land as well as the Great Lakes that is of course the world’s largest body of fresh water.

    • Karen Beilhartz exactly. They tell you what they want you to hear. They have nothing safe in the works. There supposed safe technology from the other plant they built in Europe leaked and they didn’t know why and the engineer didn’t know how to clean up the mess.

    • @ Matt Rickman Glad you made a home for yourself after being kicked off the NO Ferrochrome group. I know you left Algoma for more money in the Alberta oil fields, do you think this might bring you back for even more money? Good Luck, hopefully you can highlight all the great health and environment impacts that will benefit the North. I am sure you will convince the crowd that air quality will get better with the ferrochrome plant.

    • Selva Rasaiah youre just a crazy lady that dont wanna see the city prosper, and you seem to think we are living in the 1940’s still where theres no enforcement of regulations. No, this ferrochrome plant wont bring me back but i would still like to see the city doing well when i do come home

    • Matt Rickman, I thought we made progress here! I told you when you were a member on the NO Ferrochrome page that I was not a female auditor on the coke batteries at Algoma and there was never a female at that time and you apologized for the insult that you made against me regarding her weight! Algoma has over 14,000 opacity violations already this year (they report this on their website, add them up if you don’t believe me) with no fines. Obviously you only care about yourself and money. On March 09, Algoma environmental staff estimated they released 4.7 million litres of untreated water into the St. Mary’s River (no fine issued) caused by outdated technology in their electrical system (which Algoma has acknowledged). People who fish in the Great Lakes should feel safe to eat them.

    • Some people just look at the situation from a economic perspective, they should look at it from a health for themselves, their families, and the environment perspective. Sault Ste.Marie already has a reputation for having higher than normal cancer risk factors, why would anyone in their right mind want to add to the health, and environmental risk factors . Why do you suppose twenty some Drs. here in the Soo are so against the Ferrochrome Plant ? Could it possibly be that they fear for their health, their families health, and the health of the people of Sault Ste. Marie, and area. I would tend to think the Drs. have studied the situation from every possible perspective and see no way that it would not adversely effect the health and welfare of the citizens of Sault Ste. Marie, and area. I trust the respected Drs. and their opinions, rather than those that are just thinking about
      what’s good for the economy. jmo

    • Matt Rickman no it’s not. Read about it. There’s an article about it. Also I guess you weren’t at the meeting because they were asked those questions and that’s the answers they gave. Ya propaganda alright

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