Balancing Benefits and Public Opinion in Quebec Plan Nord Mining Project

The global need for nickel, cobalt, platinum group metals, zinc, iron ore, ilmenite, gold, lithium, vanadium, and rare earth metals is balanced by the need to mine these metals with public opinion in mine’s region. Emerson’s Janine McCormick shares her interest and updates new developments in Quebec’s Plan Nord mining project.

Emerson's Janine McCormickFresh out of college, I started my foray into world of automation and valves working in the Pulp & Paper / Metals & Mining group in the Fisher Valves business unit. After some time working with other industries, I’ve now come back to where I started and am trying to get back up to speed with what’s new in the Metals & Mining world. In my absence, the major mining areas of the world hadn’t really changed. The major mining areas are still in Chile, Peru, South Africa, Australia, Canada, and the southwest U.S.

Plan Nord Mining ProjectI was interested to learn however, in a recent meeting with a Canadian colleague of mine, about the Plan Nord project in Quebec. Not just the name for an area of land, but an actual plan for the development and mining of the wealth of natural resources in that area, while still conserving and respecting the environment.

Intrigued by this project, I decided to learn more about it. Introduced back in May of 2011, Plan Nord will be carried out over a period of 25 years, leading to over $80 billion in investments during that time. The area encompasses all of Quebec’s territory north of the 49th parallel and north of the St. Lawrence River and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. It produces all of Quebec’s nickel, cobalt, platinum group metals, zinc, iron ore, and a significant amount of gold production. It also has lithium, vanadium, and rare earth metals. Back in 2009, investment in mineral exploration and mining operations was at $958 million, accounting for 50% of investments in Quebec.

No doubt, this plan is an ambitious one, involving lots of investment by the Canadian government especially in the area of infrastructure in order to accommodate mines and other industries. In recent news, in May of 2012, an event called The Forum Plan Nord was held. At this event and in other news articles, it appears there is a lot of concern and skepticism within Quebec concerning the overall project. A study had concluded that the mega-development would profit the corporate sector and create a net loss for the actual government of Quebec.

If the plan proceeds as envisioned, “it has the potential to revive Quebec’s once vibrant mining industry,” according to the New York Times. However, based on the first year after the announcement of Plan Nord, it appears there are several hurdles to overcome, especially in the court of public opinion. It looks like we’ll have to wait and see how this Plan unfolds and what effect it will ultimately have on the metals & mining sector.

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