By StÃ©phane Blais, The Canadian Press on January 23, 2024.
MONTREAL – Swedish manufacturer Northvolt says the site of its future electric vehicle battery plant near Montreal was sabotaged after nails were driven into trees that are set to be cut down.
Northvolt spokesperson Emmanuelle Rouillard-Moreau says nails or metal barswere inserted into about 100 trees Monday night at its 170-hectare site that straddles the communities of McMasterville and St-Basile-le-Grand.
The company said in an email that such tactics can carry “significant risks for the safety of workers and surrounding communities.”
An anonymous group claimed responsibility on an anarchist website, saying the motive for their “sabotage” was to protest a megaproject they say will destroy woods and wetlands and perpetuate car culture. Writing on website Montreal Counter-Information, they said putting the “steel bars and nails” in the tree trunks was an attempt to damage heavy machinery and make the forest tougher and costlier to log.
“Today, we call for a broad mobilization against the destructive project of the Northvolt mega-factory,” they wrote. “We must attack this machine that grinds up the living by targeting its weak points.”
Federal Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne denounced the alleged sabotage as “completely unacceptable.”
“In a free and democratic society, people have the right to express themselves,” he said in Montreal, adding that “if people have objections to make, there are other ways to do it.”
Champagne described Northvolt’s decision to build a $7-billion electric battery plant near Quebec as a “generational opportunity” and that the company is conscious of the environment.
Northvolt announced the project late last year, which it claims will represent the largest private investment in Quebec’s history.
The company also confirmed Tuesday that work remains suspended on the site following an injunction request by an environmental rights group, the Centre québécois du droit de l’environnement, and three citizens. The plaintiffs argue the future facility sits on land that is environmentally sensitive and home to several endangered species.
A hearing on the injunction was expected to happen Tuesday but was instead postponed to the following day after a request made by the City of St-Basile-le-Grand and an agreement between the parties, Northvolt said.
In the meantime, Quebec Superior Court Justice David R. Collier has ordered the company not to cut down any trees in or within 500 metres of wetlands until the case is heard.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 23, 2024.