Dec '10/Jan '11


Mineral industry a driving force in economic recovery

Agnico-Eagle’s flagship Laronde Mine, active since 1988, still has among the largest gold reserves operating in Canada | Photo courtesy of the Quebec Mining Association

The Quebec minerals industry provides more than 52,000 direct and indirect jobs, has an estimated payroll of nearly $2 billion (without counting suppliers), brings in nearly $8 billion in exports, contributes $7 billion to the province’s GDP, has an average annual net financial inflow (since 2000) of more than $280 million for the government of Quebec, and will undertake investment projects worth $4.5 billion before 2013. There are new development projects located in the Nord-du-Québec, Abitibi-Témiscamingue and Côte-Nord regions.

With more than 30 active mines, this industry constitutes a major economic driving force. Production is centred primarily on iron, nickel, copper, precious metals such as gold and silver, and industrial minerals, including titanium, salt, graphite, niobium, silica and chrysotile. It also comprises more than 200 separate mining companies with exploration expenditures that were close to $349 million in 2009 and are expected to surpass $500 million in 2010. These expenditures break down into 57 per cent in Nord-du-Québec, 32 per cent in Abitibi-Témiscamingue and eight per cent in Côte-Nord. Gold remains the most sought-after substance. However, exploration for new substances, such as rare earths and high-tech metals, is on the rise.

Mining innovation

Companies in the mining industry purchase from more than 3,800 suppliers of goods and services located all across Quebec, with 1,800 in Montreal and 250 in Quebec City. Many universities (notably INRS, McGill, Polytechnique, Laval, UQAC, UQAM and UQAT) are involved through programs or research chairs.

In addition, there are at least six research consortiums, including CONSOREM, COREM, DIVEX and SOREDEM. In Quebec, the existence of an information and work-sharing system between businesses, universities and research centres represents a sustainable competitive advantage for the minerals industry.

Industry concerns over the budget

The mining sector is extremely concerned about certain measures contained in the latest provincial budget. In Quebec, mineral rights paid by mining companies to the government will increase by $327 million to $570 million over five years. This represents a marked increase of 74 per cent in the mineral rights paid by companies. Overall, once mineral rights are taken into account, the mining sector will be contributing more than $1 billion to government revenues over the next five years.

Review of the Mining Act

At a parliamentary committee meeting on Bill 79, industry and mining company representatives asked for a mining exploration policy that is effective over the long term. They also demanded better management of site restoration and a strategy for managing resources that comes under the responsibility of the government. Public hearings were held in May and August 2010, and the debate on the bill to modify the Mining Act has now moved to the National Assembly. The mining sector has clearly signalled its wish to see reforms that take into consideration the numerous challenges faced by the industry.

Issues and challenges for the industry

In Quebec, the recruitment and integration of new personnel are central preoccupations for mining companies, which are experiencing a period of dynamic activity in the form of numerous projects under development, the opening of new mines and an increase in the number of jobs. A study being carried out by the l’Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et sécurité du travail (IRSST) aims to document the conditions needed to safely and efficiently integrate new workers in an industry that has reduced its accident rate by 76 per cent over the past 20 years.

Another challenge for the industry is to foster mineral development that works with communities and is integrated within the region, as proposed in the Quebec government’s new Mineral Strategy. The revival of uranium exploration work and the development of mining projects in urban environments have raised concerns. The industry supports legislative measures that require companies to hold consultations when a mining project is being implemented. Mining companies already work in partnership with many communities, and mining managers today are very conscious of their responsibilities in this respect.

Translated from the original French authored by André Lavoie, Director, Communications and Public Affairs, Quebec Mining Association (QMA)

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