Horne Foundry: Abitibi could do without it, says Richard Desjardins


When he talks about the Fonderia Horne, formerly Noranda, many memories come to mind of Abitibi’s most famous son, singer-songwriter Richard Desjardins.

• Read also: Horne Foundry: “The people of Rouyn-Noranda don’t want the company to be closed,” says Legault

• Read also: Cancer in Rouyn: Dr. Arruda denies having hidden information

• Read also: Quebec wants to help Glencore pollute less

“When I was little, I thought that clouds were created by factory chimneys. I was not alone, parents said to their children “, says the poet during an interview with The newspaper.

The lyrics of the song And I slept in my tank by Richard Desjardins were immortalized in the graffiti on this wall of a building in the Notre-Dame neighborhood, right next to the foundry.

Photo Olivier Bourque

The lyrics of the song And I slept in my tank by Richard Desjardins were immortalized in the graffiti on this wall of a building in the Notre-Dame neighborhood, right next to the foundry.

In the neighborhood of Notre-Dame where Desjardins was born in 1948, the boys knew very well they had to hide when the factory, right next door, spewed its toxic clouds towards the city.

“As soon as there was a rush of sulfur, we garnished under the tunnels. We were suffocating. We stopped the game hockey. We were going home. It was a blow that enveloped the whole city, “Desjardins recalls.

For the citizens who live near the factory, the bad luck was seeing “clouds of smoke” alter the paint of their car, a strong scene of the documentary. Noranda (1984), in which Desjardins provided the storytelling and the music.

“He lifted the paint from the tanks. I had to take it to the garage. They were repainting and the guys were sending the invoice directly to the mine, “says the singer.

Supporter of closure

Although the situation has improved over the past few decades in the city and Old Noranda, the toxic emissions are still there.

According to a study, the plant, owned by multinational Glencore, occasionally emits concentrations of arsenic – a recognized carcinogen – 67 times higher than the Quebec standard into the air.

This is the reason why the plant should be suspended and even completely cease its activities, and this, for the health of the citizens, believes Desjardins. A position contrary to that of François Legault who believes that the people of Rouyn do not want closure.

“Let them close their doors! I am in favor of stopping this factory, as long as they have not solved the problem, “he says.

According to him, the foundry has a much less significant economic impact than before and Rouyn “could do without it”.


“The city has become something other than a mining business. I understand that 30-40 years ago there were over 2,000 men working there, ”she says.

“Today is not that. The city is much more administrative, it is the regional capital of social services, Hydro-Québec is installed, SMEs are much more developed, ”Desjardins lists.

“Now there are 400-500 jobs left, so it’s possible … Besides, they never paid for the damage they did … You’re going to Rouyn-Noranda, it’s not funny, that’s been going on for a long time time, ”he complains.

It also believes that the mining industry is ubiquitous and takes up too much space in Abitibi, which limits the development potential of other sectors of the economy.

“Rouyn would like to enlarge the city due to the housing crisis, they cannot develop further, because that’s all suitor [droits miniers]. They will not put the municipal infrastructure in a place where it will be thrown out because there will be someone who will have thought of finding a mine, ”he explains.

Far from being surprised by the latest revelations

Richard Desjardins is far from surprised by the headlines surrounding the Horne Foundry, formerly Noranda. “It hasn’t changed, it’s a continuation of the same story I’ve known since I was little. Nothing surprises me in that, ”he says.

The facility is back in the limelight after Radio-Canada revelations that the release of cancer data in Rouyn-Noranda had been postponed for more than two years at the request of the Dr Horacio Arruda, the former national director of public health.

The latter defended himself this week and claims to have withdrawn an appendix to carry out “more robust” lung cancer studies.

But Richard Desjardins believes that the public authorities have procrastinated enough and that the situation has been known for a long time.

“Arruda has postponed his studies … There is a study that has been postponed for 40 years, we have shown it in the film Noranda, that the presence of arsenic in the body increases as you go to the factory. There is zero tolerance for the human body to arsenic. That hasn’t changed, “she said, emotionally, during an interview with The newspaper.

Alarming figures

The film Noranda published in 1984, the work of directors Daniel Corvec and Robert Monderie, and narrated by Desjardins himself, examines the consequences of the industrial pollution produced by the factory, owned by the Bronfman family and the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Quebec (CDPQ) at the epoch.

According to a study broadcast in the film, deaths from respiratory diseases in Rouyn were double among men and triple among women than the Quebec population.

“We also followed a study of Mount Sinai in New York on the presence of heavy metals. Inside the factory, the arsenic level rose as you approached the reactor. They also looked at 500 workers and found five lung cancers, ”Desjardins recalls.

Data for May shows that life expectancy in the region is lower in Rouyn-Noranda than elsewhere in Quebec. Babies are also born smaller there than in the rest of Quebec.

More than 20 years after the Northern Error

Singer Richard Desjardins rarely speaks, but his interventions are always noticed. His documentary The Northern Error who denounced the forestry regime in Quebec had created a shock wave. This time Rouyn-Noranda’s baby denounces the pollution created by the Horne foundry. He gave an interview to Tree trunk.

In operation since 1927, the Horne foundry is located in Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec.

Photo Olivier Bourque

In operation since 1927, the Horne foundry is located in Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec.


When Richard Desjardins is reminded that the CAQ government wants to help the Glencore company, which owns the Horne Foundry, pollute less, the singer simply can’t believe it.

“Incredible! It’s incredible, he said, laughing spitefully. I’ve been trying to calculate the profits of the Noranda company since 1927, I can’t … Let’s talk about billions of billions … And what did we get here?

At the close of the market on Thursday, the company was worth more than $ 58 billion, more than Couche-Tard’s market capitalization.

Despite everything, the Minister of Economy, Pierre Fitzgibbon, has opened the doors to public aid to help the Horne foundry reduce its arsenic emissions.

“I had very preliminary discussions with the company to see what they are willing to do and based on the amount of money needed,” the minister stressed. Tree trunk this week.

The singer-songwriter also questions the lasting effects of the presence of a large foundry in Rouyn.

“We haven’t been as different as Sudbury (another mining town) which now has 150,000 people. It was a long time since we should have reached 150,000 inhabitants … If we had had a little transformation, ”he regrets.


Renè Levesque

Archive photo

Renè Levesque

During the interview, Richard Desjardins recalls his memories of a very popular politician who came to Rouyn-Noranda to meet the factory workers. “With my father, we went to match by René Lévesque, “he says.

“I remember one thing. René Lévesque said: that company, that gang, pointed the finger at them, Noranda, we called it Noranda at the time, the rest of them, we will civilize them, “Desjardins says.

He claims that at that moment the workers of the factory had felt a great emotion in front of Lévesque’s speech.

“I remember very well in the audience who was there, was in base of the church of Saint-Joseph, I looked at the men around me, their eyes were all wet, ”he says.

“It was the first time that they were spoken to in the same way, that they felt such a thing, that they had deep in their hearts. What they more or less consciously felt “.


Glencore is an Anglo-Swiss multinational present in particular in the extraction of raw materials. In Quebec, the company owns the Horne Foundry, the only copper smelter in Canada founded in 1927, the Raglan mine in Nunavik and the CCR copper refinery in Montreal East. The company has just pleaded guilty to corruption charges against it in Africa.

Do you have information to share with us about this story?

Do you have a scoop that might interest our readers?

Write to us or call us directly at 1 800-63SCOOP.


Leave a Comment