Quebec Mining Industry
By André Lavoie, director, communications and public relations, Quebec Mining Association
The Quebec mining industry is currently thriving. Exploration expenditures
have hit a peak unequalled in over 20 years. Development and production
projects are well underway both in mines and in the related metallurgical
sector. The development of new mine operations, combined with numerous
retirements in the sector, has created a significant labour demand. The Quebec
Government has announced that, for the first time in its history, the province
will implement a minerals strategy before the end of the year.
A positive period
Natural resources constitute a significant development engine for Quebec,
with total shipments attaining more than $5 billion in fields related to the
processing and first transformation of metals and industrial minerals. The
mining industry generates over 50,000 direct and indirect jobs in more than 30
Quebec is world-renowned for the diversity of its minerals production. The
main commodities extracted are gold, silver, iron,
copper, zinc and ilmenite, as well as industrial minerals
such as niobium, asbestos, graphite, silica and salt.
Elevated metal prices on world markets, driven by the
demand growth especially in China and India, are
responsible for the industry’s strength.
In exploration, investments reached nearly $260
million in 2006 and should climb to a record high of
nearly $300 million in 2007. Major investments
include IAMGOLD in its Westwood Project in Abitibi,
Canadian Royalties in Nunavik, Goldcorp with its
Opinaca Mine Project in James Bay, the SOQUEMStornoway
partnership in a James Bay diamond
project, Exploration Osisko in the Canadian Malartic
deposit and Alexis Minerals Corporation’s Lake Herbin
and Lake Pelletier projects in Abitibi. Exploration for
iron and uranium is also increasing on the North Shore
and in James Bay.
Development and commissioning projects are well
underway for several mining companies. Agnico-Eagle
Mines has begun work for the start-up of the Goldex,
Lapa and Laronde II mines, representing investments
of more than half a billion dollars in the Abitibi region.
In 2006, Wesdome Gold Mine inaugurated its Kiena
mining complex near Val-d’Or. Aurizon started
production at the Casa Berardi Mine north of La Sarre
in Abitibi. Xstrata has major projects in Northern
Quebec, with investments of nearly $700 million in its
Raglan Mine in Nunavik and its Perseverance Mine in Matagami. Breakwater
Resources has reopened the Langlois Mine in Lebel-sur-Quévillon.
This beehive of activity in the mining industry can also be observed in the
associated metallurgical sector, where three companies have announced major
investments to increase production capacity: the Horne smelter in Rouyn-
Noranda, the CCR Refinery in Montreal-East and QIT-Fer et Titane in Sorel-Tracy.
Major advantages for the Quebec mining industry
The Quebec mining industry has several major advantages. Quebec
possesses excellent mineral resource potential spread across a largely
unexplored territory. Examples of this untapped potential include the recent
diamond, gold and nickel discoveries.
Quebec mining and exploration companies are leaders in the development
and application of innovative exploration methods, the development of
mineral deposits and in the extraction and recovery of the metals contained
The province has a dependable mining regime based on a legal structure
that allows structured and coherent development of the Quebec mining
industry. The mining sector benefits from collaboration with the Department of
Natural Resources and Wildlife, whose high quality of technical and
professional work is recognized throughout the world. For the last few years,
the Fraser Institute has rated Quebec as one of the best places in the world for
supporting mining development.
The creation of the research consortium, Corem, allows the mining sector to
create synergy in matters of process research and development between
industries, government, research centres and universities, thus helping the
industry remain competitive. In underground mining, industry can also rely on
the services of the Canmet mine laboratory in Val-d’Or.
Quebec also has a university network that supports the competitiveness of
the mining sector through training and research and development. The mining
industry can also depend on SOQUEM, an exploration company that has played
a major role in the discovery and development of Quebec mineral resources
since its creation in 1965.
Finally, Sidex and Sodemex financially support junior companies in the first
stages of exploration.
A Quebec strategy
By the end of 2007, Quebec will have given itself a minerals strategy for the
first time in its history. According to Natural Resources and Wildlife Minister
Claude Béchard, who recently held consultations with interested parties and
organizations, the aim of such a strategy is to determine the goals and the
actions that will ensure the long-term development of the mineral sector.
During the consultations, the following points were submitted for study:
discovering new deposits, reinforcing the competitiveness of the mining sector,
attracting and training manpower,harmoniously integrating mining activities in
the environment and ensuring the successful cohabitation between the various
users of the land. At the time this article was written, the Quebec Government
had not yet announced the official contents of Quebec’s Minerals Strategy.
A major challenge: filling workforce requirements
The start-up of new mines and numerous retirements have lead to
significant manpower requirements that must be fulfilled. In this regard, the
Quebec Mining Association and the Comité sectoriel de main-d’oeuvre de
l’industrie des mines (CSMO-mines) recently held awareness activities
targeting young people and workers in mining regions to promote careers in
the mining industry. The lack of new manpower is a major challenge for the
industry; it must attract, recruit and retain qualified workers among young
people,women, First Nations people and immigrants.
For many years, the Canadian mining industry has used state-of-the-art
technology and the development of its human resources to establish and
maintain a competitive position in international markets. Faced with a
probable lack of manpower, the Quebec sector is doing everything it can to
ensure the renewal of human resources, the primary “raw material” of the