November 2011

Voices from Industry

Plan Nord: a vision shared by all its stakeholders

By S. Simard

It is a great pleasure for me to be associated with this issue of CIM Magazine, which focuses on Quebec’s mining industry, and to be given the opportunity to highlight the important role sustainable development plays in Plan Nord. Heralded as one of the largest economic, social and environmental projects of our time, Plan Nord is an ambitious plan — it will generate an estimated $80 billion in investments over a 25-year span — that will be implemented jointly with the communities concerned, taking into account the challenges that come with northern development. As partners, the mining industry stakeholders will contribute to the realization of this important plan.

Potential of the land

Rich in mineral resources, Quebec is recognized as a force in the mining world, even though only 40 per cent of its mineral potential has been mapped. Quebec’s North has major promise for mineral development and several major projects are already under way in the area.

Each year, the government conducts surveys to assess the mineral potential of various regions and to identify exploration targets. This work will continue at a faster pace throughout the coming years as Plan Nord is implemented.  Promising sectors for development have already been identified in James Bay-Eeyou Istchee, in Nunavik and on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River.

Infrastructure

The economic and social development of northern Quebec will require improved access to communities, public land and resources in the area. As one of Plan Nord’s main objectives, a high-quality transportation infrastructure will be established. The government is emphasizing projects that provide access to the territories with the greatest economic potential. Private-sector partners will contribute financially to infrastructure projects linked directly to their investment projects. To this end, a financial partnership agreement was recently signed with Stornoway Diamond Corporation for the construction and maintenance of an extension of Highway 167 toward the Otish Mountains, located 350 kilometres north of Chibougamau. The new road will allow the company to move ahead with the Renard project, which will become Quebec’s first diamond mine.

Training

Training the local workforce is another item on the Plan Nord agenda, and the Quebec government intends on investing $80 million on training programs during the next five years. At least 11 new mineral development projects are expected to be launched in the coming years; the implementation of just these projects alone will lead to an estimated $8.24 billion in investments and create approximately 11,000 jobs during the construction phase, followed by almost 4,000 jobs each year that the mines are in operation.

Tax and legal framework

According to the Fraser Institute, Quebec is one of the five most attractive locations in the world for mining investment. The province’s modern and competitive legislative, regulatory and taxation framework has earned Quebec a place in the top ten jurisdictions since 2001. Taking the various applicable regulations into account, Quebec obtained the highest score for mineral potential under the current policy environment.

Plan Nord: an ambitious program

A long list of measures are planned or currently being implemented that will make Quebec’s vision for Plan Nord a reality. The 121 initiatives established for the first five-year plan of action include gathering geo-scientific data to stimulate exploration, building new infrastructures to facilitate access to public land and creating new national parks.

Plan Nord’s structure and approach is unique, and various countries around the world are drawing inspiration from it. For the first time in Quebec’s history, the affected communities are being asked to play an active role in a project that will define not only the next 25 years, but also contribute to a region’s prosperity.

Although an ambitious plan, it is one that is attainable as it reflects a vision defined and shared by all stakeholders.


Serge Simard is Québec's Minister for Natural Resources and Wildlife.

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