Quebec is one of Canada’s top three mineral producers and a prime destination for speculative exploration spending. It has a reputation as a relatively easy place to explore and develop a mineral property, due to strong government support, established mining regions such as Val d’Or, and an agreement on resource development with the Cree and Inuit that guides development in much of the northern part of the province. Despite the ease with which the industry often operates in Quebec, a growing number of conflicts are putting a spotlight on the flaws and inequities in Quebec’s outdated Mining Act.
MiningWatch is an active member of the coalition “Québec meilleure mine”, which has been an effective advocate for mining reform in la belle province. Insightful analyses combined with an ability to generate considerable media coverage have raised the profile of mining issues and the flawed legislation that contributes to the conflicts described below.
The government of Quebec has been promising to reform its mining act for several years and in 2010 proposed a new bill to make a number of modest changes. This bill was never passed but in May 12 a new bill was tabled that proposes most of the same minor changes. While the name of the bill suggests that the bill’s purpose has been radically reoriented towards reconciling mining and sustainable development, the actual changes only temper the priority and privilege given to the mining industry over Aboriginal rights, municipal interests, social impacts and environmental concerns.
The bill proposes increased requirements for communication and consultation regarding mineral staking, exploration and granting of mining leases, but does not recognize the need for consent of Aboriginal peoples or the need for municipal planning to determine the best uses of lands (though exploration within an urbanised area would require the permission of the municipality).
Given these modest changes it is unlikely that the conflicts over access to land and the difficulty in achieving consent and meaningful participation of Aboriginal communities are likely to diminish in the months or years ahead unless a more progressive and radical overhaul of the Mining Act is pursued.