Mining ramping up in Canada, but under restrictions that will add to costs and reduce productivity – by Niall McGee and Nicolas Van Praet (Globe and Mail – April 16, 2020)

Mines in Quebec are ramping up after restrictions that kept operations to a minimum over the past three weeks were lifted, bringing the province in line with some other parts of the country that allowed mining to continue during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On March 23, Quebec ordered all non-priority businesses to temporarily minimize operations to help reduce the risk of spreading the novel coronavirus. Under the directive, mining companies that operate in Quebec had to put their sites on care and maintenance. The province has the highest number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the country.

Quebec stood out from several other mining-heavy jurisdictions in Canada, such as Ontario and British Columbia, which both deemed the sector an essential business. Those provinces allowed mining companies to continue to operate, albeit under tougher guidelines that raised the costs of doing business.

However, Quebec changed course on Monday, putting mining on its list of priority businesses. The province said in a release that the decision was motivated in part by a realization that the sector is a necessary part of the supply chain for many essential products, including medical devices.

But the province was also under pressure from the industry, and it noted how important mining is to the province’s economy. Quebec says the sector employed 40,000 people last year and accounted for an average of $7.4-billion of provincial GDP over the past five years.

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