Mine your own business: Plan Nord’s disastrous consequences – by Jasreet Kaur (McGill Daily – March 30, 2015)

http://www.mcgilldaily.com/

With recent austerity measures affecting many economic sectors within Quebec, the provincial government is desperately looking for new sources of income. The precious metal industry is still profitable, and mining developments such as Plan Nord could bring investors to the province, acting as a safety net to protect people from the ongoing cuts. However, this would not come without a cost that would be shouldered by current and future generations.

The benefits of invasive projects such as Plan Nord are often only measured by their immediate value, leaving out negative externalities. Plan Nord is expected to cause substantial environmental damage to the region, due both to the resource extraction the project would entail, as well as its magnitude. In addition to the environmental damage, however, the project will have significant negative impacts on the local communities in the North, particularly with regards to women.

Plan Nord was initially proposed by the Liberal government led by Jean Charest in 2011, but was shut down by Pauline Marois after the Parti Québécois (PQ) came into power in 2012. The PQ has traditionally held an antagonistic position toward the mining sector. Recently, however, with the comeback of the Liberals, a revised version of the project has started to gain steam once again.

This version, which encompasses 72 per cent of the land area of Quebec, an area twice the size of France, is expected to create significant economic benefits for the province, including the creation of 20,000 jobs. These jobs, however, would come at the expense of severe environmental damages and a high potential for changes in social structures in surrounding communities, many of which are Indigenous.

Additionally, despite the government’s promise that 50 per cent of the mineral rich areas would remain untouched with regard to Plan Nord resource extraction and would be preserved, the other 50 per cent, or 36 per cent of Quebec, is left to be exploited by private mining companies. Environmental agencies and people living in the region have raised questions about the intentions for this half of the plan since its announcement, but have not been able to receive concrete answers.

Mining consequences

Mining activities often cause changes in the environment that directly affect communities living in the area – including risks such as airborne chemicals and chemicals leaking into underground aquifers. Currently, little research exists on the location of Quebec’s (and Canada’s) groundwater and aquifer deposits, making it difficult, if not impossible, to account for the quality of these water sources as mining operations expand the Northern territory.

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