Val-d'Or, Quebec – Measures and targets outlined by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forests (MNRF) in its 2023-2027 Strategic Plan tabled in the National Assembly this Tuesday, June 13, fail to address public concerns or resolve environmental and social issues tied to the mining sector. The MNRF tabled its Strategic Plan prior to publishing its report on the Public Consultation on the Mining Framework. The Québec meilleure mine (QMM) Coalition is urging Minister Maïté Blanchette Vézina to revisit her department’s priorities to ensure they meet public expectations, are more ambitious when it comes to environmental and social issues, and are quickly put into action.
The number of serious concerns raised across the province during the Consultation shines light on the need to thoroughly overhaul the legislative and regulatory framework for mining activities to respect the rights of Indigenous peoples, the environment, and the rights of local populations. The actions required to achieve this go far beyond what’s outlined in the 2023-2027 Strategic Plan tabled this week.
A Strategic Plan that misses the mark
The purpose of the 2023-2027 Strategic Plan is economic. The MNRF seeks to increase the presence of mining companies in Quebec. This is a plan for more mining – not an overhaul of the system – and even less focused on reducing the impacts of mining. Rather than attempting to contain the mining boom, the MNRF "aims to increase the share of private investment in the exploration and development of critical and strategic minerals.”
Measures related to the goal of “maintaining consistent dialogue” are paternalistic, mediocre, and disrespectful of local populations. The idea of increasing the public's satisfaction with the MNRF by a mere 1% through "sharing knowledge and ways of doing things" in no way addresses the root of the problem associated with the mining boom. People are demanding real powers to manage their own territories; they’re not looking for explanations.
The QMM Coalition is pleased to read that the MNRF recognizes the importance of recovering and recycling metals, and of redistributing royalties at the local level. Unfortunately, these statements are not accompanied by any concrete targets, indicators, or measures.
Finally, the MNRF acknowledges that the share of private investment in the exploration and development of "critical and strategic minerals" is currently limited to a mere 26%. The ministry’s 2027 target is only 28%. Given this reality, the QMM Coalition urges the MNRF to stop using so-called “future minerals” as a justification for any and all mining.
60 recommendations for a new approach
On May 18, the QMM Coalition handed a brief directly to the Minister during her visit to Rouyn-Noranda.
All 60 recommendations made by the QMM Coalition call for an ambitious and in-depth reform of the mining framework, which will inevitably require legislative and regulatory amendments. The MNRF’s 2023-2027 Strategic Plan only partially addresses one of our recommendations.
Ten years after the last major amendments were made to the Mining Act, and above and beyond what’s currently on the table for changes to the current system, Quebec needs a fundamental shift in approach to its relationship with the mining industry. Protecting the environment and respecting local populations and the rights of Indigenous peoples must become the government’s priority.
A skipped consultation
The QMM Coalition welcomed the notice of a consultation from the day it was announced on February 17, and widely encouraged QMM members and the public to take part. However, the online format and rushed process placed obstacles and unjustifiable constraints on public participation throughout the province.
The MNRF’s decision to withdraw from public meetings and instead, delegate the organization and facilitation of the public sessions to private firms, missed the mark. Instead of creating a neutral environment built on trust with the public, the absence of the relevant ministries allowed for the monopolization of the time and space by representatives of mining companies, leaving important technical questions unanswered. Giving the public less than a month to register for the meetings was unreasonable. There were numerous technical problems, and many interested parties were unable to attend the initial workshops because of limited capacity. There was little or no publication of the dates for the sessions, and the dates were sent out with too short a notice for many people.
The public demands immediate action
Although the Consultation was far from perfect, discussions quickly surfaced the fact that residents across Quebec are calling on the government to carry out an in-depth reform of the framework for the mining sector.
It is imperative that next steps be taken in a cross-departmental manner, involving all ministries concerned, given that many of the issues extend well beyond the role of the MNRF. In fact, many of the required changes directly concern issues of governance of the ministries, which is why it is so important that the Ministry of the Environment, the Fight Against Climate Change, Wildlife and Parks, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, and the Secretariat of Relations with First Nations and Inuit be involved throughout all stages leading to the necessary improvements.
The QMM Coalition will continue to act as an independent watchdog until the necessary environmental and social reforms in the mining sector are adopted.
"The road towards achieving a framework for mining that respects the environment and local populations will be long, and everyone’s opinion is important if we are to move this process – so needed for democracy – in the right direction. Our message to the Minister is that we want ambitious reforms, but we also want a proper consultation to get there,” Rodrigue Turgeon, lawyer, co-spokesperson for the Québec meilleure mine Coalition and Co-Manager at MiningWatch Canada
"The current mining framework dates back more than 150 years, and the ideology around which it is structured dates back several centuries. Hundreds of lakes and rivers, underground springs, and eskers have been destroyed, contaminated, and dried up by mining activity. The resulting impacts are and will be felt for decades, if not centuries, to come. And what information is available to Quebecers to help them think through these issues? Only one hour to divide between 30 civil society groups representing as many different interests, and a few weeks to take part in virtual discussions with extremely limited space. And finally, the option of submitting briefs and comments according to a biased system which favours the supposed benefits of the mining industry in Quebec. This is simply unacceptable,” says Rébecca Pétrin, Executive Director of Eau Secours
"The protection of rivers, lakes and all sensitive ecological environments can no longer be trumped by mining development based on outdated regulations and laws. Profits for Quebec society must respect the vulnerability of water and nature to mining activities,” says André Bélanger, Executive Director of the Fondation Rivières
"Visiting Abitibi on May 18, Minister Blanchette-Vézina had the nerve to offer only a one-hour window to speak with dozens of groups from civil society working on mining issues, some for over 30 years. Is that consultation and harmonious development? It shows utter contempt for the people dedicated to fight for the common good and our children’s future. With this arrogant attitude, the Minister would be wise to remember what happened to her renowned predecessor, Pierre Dufour,” denounced Henri Jacob, co-spokesperson of the Québec meilleure mine Coalition and president of Action boréale
"Major changes must be made to the Mining Act. We need to ensure that a region like ours is protected from completely unbridled mining, as put forward by the government in its 2020-2025 plan to develop critical and strategic minerals. We hope the Minister will give us quality time to discuss these issues,” Marc Nantel, spokesperson for the Regroupement Vigilance Mines de l'Abitibi et du Témiscamingue
"Officials from the Ministry of Mines joke that the Mining Act is second only to God, and just because it makes them laugh doesn't mean it's funny. We urgently need to abandon the notion that mining activities should be prioritized over all other land uses, and in particular, over the conservation of fauna, flora, and exceptional ecosystems. Mining is one of the significant causes of biodiversity collapse, particularly in Quebec. It threatens the Gaspé caribou, our region's emblematic endangered species," says Pascal Bergeron, spokesperson for Environnement Vert Plus
"We have made the necessary efforts to consult with our community and to hear what the public has to say about mining activity. We call on the Minister to show reciprocity and give us the time we need to share the results of our consultations. Otherwise, these local efforts will have been in vain," Mathieu Guillemette, Mayor of Roquemaure
"A consultation on the 'harmonious development of mining' during which representatives of citizens’ committees were barely given an hour to speak is as insulting and unacceptable as the failure to respect the conclusions of the consultation on the ministerial agreement for the Horne smelter!” Johanne Alarie, Mères au front Rouyn-Noranda and Gabrielle Spenard-Bernier, Mères au front coordinator
"The people of Abitibi-Témiscamingue and the environment must not bear the brunt of the government and industry's rush to extract "critical and strategic" minerals", Nicole Desgagnés, Comité ARET
"After several consultations over the years to amend the Mining Act, this was a missed opportunity in several regions of Quebec. Despite this reality, the voices of Quebec residents must be heard and listened to,” Jacinthe Châteauvert, President of the Conseil régional de l'environnement de l'Abitibi Témiscamingue
Additional organizations supporting this press release:
- Association québécoise des médecins pour l’environnement, Patricia Clermont
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Source: Québec meilleure mine Coalition
Media contacts: Rodrigue Turgeon, Coalition Québec meilleure mine and MiningWatch Canada, 819-444-9226, [email protected]