May 18th, 2024

‘Incendiary devices’ found at Quebec construction site for Northvolt EV battery plant


By The Canadian Press on May 6, 2024.

Security guards the entrance to the construction site of the new EV battery plant, Northvolt, in Saint-Basile-le-Grand, east of Montreal, Quebec, Friday, Jan. 19, 2024. The company behind the project for a major plant for electric vehicle batteries in Quebec says 'homemade bombs' were found at the construction site east of Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christinne Muschi

MONTREAL – A company building a major factory for electric vehicle batteries in Quebec says incendiary devices were found Monday morning at its construction site east of Montreal, in what is the latest act of alleged vandalism against the project.

The devices consisted of bottles filled with flammable liquid with a “rudimentary” ignition system, said Paolo Cerruti, co-founder of Swedish manufacturer Northvolt. Cerruti, who is also CEO of Northvolt North America, told reporters the ignition system “allowed for a certain delay” before the bottles were supposed to catch fire, but “thank God it didn’t work.”

Northvolt initially called the devices “homemade bombs” in a news release, but Cerruti later referred to them as “incendiary devices.”

Cerruti said multiple bottles were placed under the tires of “certain elements of equipment” at the site. Chantal Graveline with the Richelieu – Saint-Laurent police force confirmed that officers had discovered incendiary devices beneath a vehicle and that an investigation is underway.

Monday’s discovery is the latest act of alleged vandalism at the future site of Northvolt’s $7-billion factory for electric vehicle batteries. Straddling two communities about 30 kilometres east of Montreal – McMasterville and Saint-Basile-le-Grand – the 170-hectare site is scheduled to open by the end of 2026. It is expected to have an initial capacity to produce about 30 gigawatt-hours of cell manufacturing a year, enough to power one million vehicles.

Since it was announced in September, the project has faced opposition from environmental groups and the Mohawk community, who say the plant is being built on environmentally sensitive land without being subjected to a proper review.

At the end of February, police opened an investigation after individuals had laid spiked mats at the site. A vehicle was also damaged.

In January, the company said nails or metal bars had been inserted into about 100 trees. An anonymous group claimed responsibility on an anarchist website, saying the motive for their “sabotage” was to protest the megaproject, which they said would destroy woods and wetlands and perpetuate car culture.

Cerruti said the site was being considered a crime scene and that the company was waiting for approval from police to reopen, which he expected would happen before the end of the day. He said if the objective of the vandals was to create fear among the employees of Northvolt and other companies at the site, it had the opposite effect.

“We are more determined than ever to go forward,” he said. “We have the support of the community.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 6, 2024.

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