Editorial: Quebec pushes forward with revived Plan Nord – by John Cumming (Northern Miner – April 8, 2015)

The Northern Miner, first published in 1915, during the Cobalt Silver Rush, is considered Canada’s leading authority on the mining industry. Editor John Cumming MSc (Geol) is one of the country’s most well respected mining journalists.  [email protected]

More meat has been added to the bones of Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard’s revival of former Premier Jean Charest’s shelved Plan Nord to develop large infrastructure in Quebec’s resource-rich Far North.

The Couillard government tabled its budget on March 26 for the fiscal year starting April 1, 2015, and it contains specific funds earmarked for Plan Nord as well as overall budgetary encouragement of mining and mineral exploration in Quebec.

Premier Couillard assumed office in April 2014, and made his mark in mining circles by reversing the decision of the previous Parti Québécois administration — which came to power in September 2012 — to scuttle Charest’s Plan Nord from 2011, which envisaged $80 billion in government and industry investments in northern Quebec resource development by 2036.

Right away the new Couillard government announced it would invest directly in the equity of mining and oil and gas companies; extend and repair roads in the North; and revive a feasibility study to extend a Labrador Trough rail line to complement the two railways that connect the deep-sea port at Sept-Îles to the iron ore mines to the north.

The next big step forward came last September, when the Couillard government tabled Bill 11 to create the Société du Plan Nord (SPN) — a government-supported organization that would have considerable power to encourage and coordinate Plan Nord activities.

The SPN began operations on schedule on April 1, after having convened its first meeting in late March. Élizabeth Blais of Sept-Îles is SPN’s first president, and Robert Sauvé is associate secretary.

The SPN is being funded by the province’s new Fonds du Plan Nordover a 25-year period, mostly by an annual endowment stemming from tax spinoffs relating to resource development in the Plan Nord territory, which covers 72% of Quebec.

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