Mines in your neighbourhood?
Since November 3rd 2014, Variscan Mines have held an exclusive permit allowing them to carry out mining research in Merléac (PERM Permis Exclusif de Recherche Minière) They are looking for the presence of zinc, copper, lead, gold, silver and related substances in an area covering 41,100 hectares throughout 34 communes. This ‘PERM’ is valid for 5 years and is renewable twice.

Who are Variscan Mines and Why Merleac?
Variscan Mines is a limited company with a French base in Orléans, financed by Australian, Singaporese and New Zealand backers.
The region of Merléac has already been the object of research mining between 1958 and 1981. These previous studies were carried out by a public organism, ‘BRGM’ (Bureau de Recherches Géologiques et Minières).
After some initial fruitful but not financially viable research work, the site at Porte aux Moines (PAM) was closed in 1981.
Today these works by Variscan Mines serve private foreign sector interests but involve members of some of the team at BRGM. With their previous research knowledge of the area they are well aware of the zone’s potential.

My land, my property - does it concern me?
Potentially yes, because the ground beneath the soil belongs to the state.
Today, following a research campaign carried out by helicopter, the initial phase is advancing at a pace. Variscan have technicians in place and on the ground carrying out work. However, they have remained mostly silent since obtaining the PERM in as far as communicating the results of their research and their subsequent intentions.
We do know that within the research zone, 15 areas have been pinpointed by Variscan as being ‘high priority’ with another 50 odd still to be verified. The 15 areas are included within the communes of Merléac, St Martin de Près, St Gilles Vieux Marché, St Gelven, L’Hermitage l’Orge, Gausson, Plémy and Hénon.

What’s taking place?
Over the next 4 years, different phases of exploration will take place, one after the other, with their priorities being:
- Taking stone samples from the surface of the ground, already underway.
- Digging trenches up to 1.3 metres deep, 2 to 6 metres wide and 10 to 15 metres long. Not yet underway.

- Carrying out surveys from depths of 15 to 1500 metres.

Opening a mine, as in the 1970’s at Porte aux Moines.

What are the real impacts of the exploration?
The risk of drying up of natural water sources, wells, springs etc, for instance, in 1980 the inhabitants of PAM were forced to connect to the communal water supply as their own resources were no longer usable. Today numerous agricultural water supplies are threatened.

- Pollution of the soil, surface water and water sources above and underground, acidification of water and water that is high in heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, cadmium. The BRGM studies highlighted these real and serious problems in their 1982 report.

- More and more chemical procedures involving the use of pollutants such as lubricants used to facilitate drilling.

- It is important to remember that over the last 20 years the agricultural community have redoubled their efforts to follow EU directives to achieve good quality water. This has been successful but will be put at risk by this project.

This mining operation, would it be good for local jobs and the economy ?
Variscan talks of 100 to 500 jobs being created. This statement must be taken with precaution as today mining is highly specialised and mostly mechanised and it is not unreasonable to believe that in fact very few jobs will arise. As already seen in 1979 when only 4 of 25 employees were local. The economic balance in Central Brittany rests today in the agricultural and tourist sectors, both of which are threatened by this project.
Does the mining companies argument that it is in the country’s interest to develop mines and underground resources stand up when 100% of the company’s capital is held by foreign investors?

And afterwards?
Variscan is giving very little information on the subject. Despite this, what is evident for all to see today at the site of the original mine at Kerveno, is a spoil heap. This heap consists of the minerals and rubble extracted at the time the mine was dug. BRGM, the previous operator, admitted to burying the spoil under a layer of bitumen and then 50 cms of topsoil. Since 1981 NOTHING has grown there. What is the reason for this??
During the extraction of zinc, copper, lead and silver present in the soil, BRGM also noted the presence of ‘not negligible’ amounts of other minerals that were highly toxic such as cadmium and arsenic.
Beyond the environmental impact there is also the devaluation of our properties and land to consider.
We should also note that because of a law, article L132 -6 code minier, Variscan have exclusive rights to obtain a concession before the end of their 5 year permit.

What can we do ?
FORBID ACCESS TO OUR LAND. Considering the lack of information we have been given by Variscan and the potentially dangerous risks involved several landowners, tenants and citizens have already refused access to their land for initial prospecting. At the moment this remains the only way to slow down the exploration whilst we wait for more information.
ASK our elected representatives to demand transparency and clarity from Variscan and ask them to enter into public discussion.

As already seen in other areas this permit held by Varsican at Merléac since November 2014 throws up concerns and worries about their intentions and claims.
We remind you that Variscan mines is a company owned exclusively by foreign investors and whose French managerial staff are the same officials that operated during the BRGM studies.
Numerous articles have been published in the press. Vigil Oust Merléac is a group made up of concerned citizens from all sectors (farmers, business people, retired people etc.). Their principal aim is to inform the inhabitants of the 34 communes implicated in this project.
To join us and give us information about your commune please contact us as soon as possible.