Northern Quebec is a largely untouched wilderness mainly consisting of the northern arctic regions of Quebec. However, this region is known to hold mineral resources, woodlands and potential hydroelectric developments, but currently lacks the roads, railways, ports, and communication infrastructure necessary for extraction.
Plan Nord is the development of a 1.2 million kilometer area and will be carried out over a period of 25 years developing the infrastructure to make this exploitation a reality. It will lead to over $80 billion in investments, $47 billion towards renewable energy, and $33 billion for investments in the mining sector and public infrastructure. This 25 year period and has the potential of reviving Quebec’s once vibrant mining industry making it the largest attempt to develop Canada’s sparsely populated north since the development of the oil sands in Northern Alberta.
These mining operations are a major component of the economy of Northern Quebec as all of Quebec’s nickel, cobalt, platinum group metals, zinc and iron ore are produced here. Additionally, a significant portion of gold is produced in this region. Lithium, vanadium and rare earth metals (which China is increasingly reluctant to export) are used in numerous fields related to energy, transportation and high technology and too are found in this region. The Plan Nord project has already seen at least 11 new projects on the books.
Although the project includes banning any industrial activity in a large portion of the pristine regions of the province, the program has the potential of putting the province at odds with environmentalists. Provincial politicians are emphasizing that all measures are being taken to ensure natural resources and biodiversity are preserved for current and future generations. The government will introduce tax credits for companies to minimize environmental impact on the region, which will further incentivize mining companies to take advantage of the available region’s resources.
There will likely be some growing pains and a big level of commitment required from industry, government and local and aboriginal communities before Plan Nord can reach its full potential. However, the future looks bright for mining economical development in this region and its contribution to overall economic growth.
Meanwhile, in other countries such as the United States, the mining industry faces increasing regulatory hurdles through additional rules, regulations and litigation. In an era where economic growth is much needed, it remains to be seen if the US can learn from its northern neighbor.