Commentary: Quebec gov’t to stabilize legislative framework for mining – by Emmanuel Sala and Jean-Philippe Latreille (Northern Miner – February 20, 2015)

The Northern Miner, first published in 1915, during the Cobalt Silver Rush, is considered Canada’s leading authority on the mining industry.

Quebec’s position as the most attractive jurisdiction for mining exploration took quite a tumble in last year’s Fraser Institute survey, falling to twenty-first place. The political uncertainty in the past few years which has surrounded the debates on reforming the mining legislative framework undoubtedly accounts for this decline.

However, recent developments lead us to believe there will be a return to the predictability and stability that once made Quebec a haven for mining businesses and investors.

First, on Dec. 10, 2013, the saga of the Mining Act reform, which started four years earlier, almost to the day, and led to the introduction of four different bills in the Quebec legislature, finally ended with the passage of Bill 70. This bill is in fact a simplified version of the sweeping overhaul of the Mining Act proposed by the previous minority government, which was received with some reservation and criticism by the opposition parties. Nevertheless, Bill 70 still contains provisions that impose new constraints and restrictions on mining corporations.

Furthermore, on June 4, 2014, the newly elected majority government tabled its Budget 2014–15, which introduced measures to support natural resource development in Quebec.

Among those measures, the government announced the revival of the Plan Nord and the creation of the Société du Plan Nord — a government entity which will be responsible for coordinating the development of the area covered by the Plan Nord in accordance with the guidelines defined by the government.

Bill 11, entitled An Act respecting the Société du Plan Nord, which creates this new entity, was adopted by the legislature on Dec. 4, 2014. This new entity should be operating by April 1, 2015.

Financial assistance to implement the Plan Nord will be provided through the Plan Nord Fund (formerly known as the Northern Development Fund), which has received $63 million in funding from the government for the 2014–15 fiscal year. The fund will finance strategic infrastructure, social measures and measures to promote the development and protection of the Plan Nord territory, as well as the Société du Plan Nord. These funds are to be drawn from the tax revenues generated by the increased economic activity north of the 49th parallel.

The government also confirmed its intention to acquire equity interests, first, in companies mining mineral substances on lands in the state domain and, second, subject to some conditions, in the businesses processing those substances. It will do so by creating the Mining and Hydrocarbon Capital Fund, which will receive a $1-billion funding allocation.

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