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Quebec’s mining companies say the government should create an independent commission to govern the industry, like the commissions that oversee the financial industry and agricultural zoning.
The recommendation comes from the Quebec Mineral Exploration Association, which is worried about the impact of a new bill now under consideration by the Quebec National Assembly.
Mining exploration has been booming in this province over the past several years, with billions of dollars worth of projects now underway or on the drawing boards.
But getting those projects started is sometimes difficult. Companies with mining claims have to reach a deal with property owners, who often want more information about drilling plans as well as financial compensation.
In towns and villages where there are municipal councils to deal with, mining promoters are facing the NIMBY phenomenon: Not in My Backyard.
The Quebec government has seen which way the wind is blowing. While the government wants to promote the industry, it also wants to see sustainable development of mining.
That’s why a newly drafted law, Bill 14, would create new obligations on exploration companies to reach agreement with the relevant municipal authorities.
The Mineral Exploration Association objects, pointing out that there are 1,200 municipal entities in Quebec and they don’t all apply the same standards of approval.
Some mining projects may straddle jurisdictions, making it that much harder to reach a workable agreement for all concerned, says Valerie Fillion, executive director of the group.
“In the bill, there’s an article that says a claim holder that wants to do exploration work must get authorization from the municipality or village,” she says. “If the municipality refuses to allow the work and the company loses its claim, there’s no recourse or compensation.
“It’s a right of veto.” Ms. Fillion says the retroactive nature of the bill troubles mining companies, because existing projects won’t be grandfathered and could be at risk.
At least $1-billion worth of investments are at stake, she estimates, including $400-million in the AbitibiTemiscamingue region alone.
Since September 2010, a directive from the Ministry of Natural Resources says companies wishing to perform work on the perimeter of towns have to inform authorities of their plans. The new law adds villages to the requirement.
Instead of trying to negotiate with every town and village council across Quebec, the industry would like to see a form of one-stop shopping – what it calls a Commission de Valorisation de la Ressource Minerale du Québec.
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