Quebec is one of the world’s most important mining jurisdictions with mineral production of 4.5 to 5.5 billion in 2006 and 2007 respectively. It has also been ranked as the world’s friendliest mining jurisdiction and called a “Mining Paradise” by its Minister of Natural Resources.
However, a report of the Auditor General of Quebec released on April 3, 2009 shows that there is trouble in paradise. The report found that despite production values in the millions, little is being paid in royalties and the government and citizens are being left with massive liabilities. In an article on the report published in Le Devoir, Christian Simard of Nature Quebec says that while “Quebec may be a miner’s paradise it is a nightmare for taxpayers”.
MiningWatch Canada was one of the groups consulted during the Auditor General’s investigation and many of the report’s conclusions are consistent with our own critique of the situation, with our 2002 report Looking Beneath the Surface, its 2004 follow up Mining Taxation in Canada, and with our submission to the consultations on a new Quebec mining strategy. (The strategy was supposed to be completed by the end of 2007 but has yet to be released to the public.)
MiningWatch is a founding member of the coalition Pour que le Québec ait meilleure mine! and with the coalition is educating the Quebec population, developing policy alternatives and pressuring the government to adopt a new approach to mining that will put the protection and sustainability of the environment, communities and citizens ahead of industry profiteering.
Some of the key findings of the Auditor General’s report include:
- For the 2002-2008 period, 14 companies (from a maximum of 20) paid no mining tax even though they had a combined gross annual production value of $4.2 billion. As for the other companies, they paid, for the same period, $259 million, or 1.5% of the gross annual production value.
- There is no effort being made to conduct a systematic statistical analysis and publication of information on this industry.
- State interventions meant to ensure that mining companies comply with legal requirements during the various stages of a mine’s are not sufficient to minimize the risk that the State may have to assume additional liability when a mine site is abandoned.