Land protection under Plan Nord should be “reversible,” says Quebec mining association

Group asks Quebec to regularly re-evaluate protected lands


Quebec’s mining association wants the province to be flexible in how it moves ahead with its scheme to protect lands above the 49th parallel in Quebec.

The association called Nov. 11 for a “reversible” approach to land protection in northern Quebec.

Plan Nord is supposed to protect 50 per cent of the lands north of the 49th parallel from industrial development such as hydroelectric projects and mining.

As part of Plan Nord, Quebec says it will set aside 12 per cent of those lands, park reserves or protected areas by 2015.

By 2020, Quebec plans to designate five per cent of the region as natural land reserves.

And, by 2035, Quebec wants to see 50 per cent of northern Quebec become protected areas or natural land reserves.

But in its brief presented to Quebec’s Department of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks, the mining association said Quebec should be careful not to penalize people in Quebec by limiting the discovery and development of the province’s potential wealth.

The mining association says not enough is known about northern Quebec’s mineral and metal deposits.

So its member companies — which include all of Quebec’s major mining companies active in Nunavik — want Quebec to review the status of any protected areas on a regular basis.

Quebec’s production of nickel, cobalt, platinum group elements, zinc and iron ore comes mainly from northern Quebec. These lands also contain gold, lithium, vanadium and rare earth elements, which are increasingly used in transportation and high tech sectors, they say.

“The diamond potential of the North is also interesting,” they add.

Before excluding large areas from industrial development, the association wants more exploration to take place.

Moreover, the goal set by the Quebec government to protect 50 per cent of northern Quebec is “very ambitious and goes well beyond the international commitments,” asking countries to protect 17 per cent of their of its land masses.

The mining association brief was filed on the last day of public consultations led by Quebec’s Department of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks on Plan Nord’s land protection goals.

From September to Nov. 11, public consultations took place throughout Quebec, but the closest these came to Nunavik was Matagami, north of Val d’Or.

Environmental groups and most recently Quebec’s powerful CSN union have criticized the land protection plan.

People in Kuujjuaq and Kangiqsualujjuaq may still speak up when Quebec’s Department of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks holds public hearings on the the creation of Ulittaniujalik park in Kuujjuaq, Kangiqsualujjuaq and Kawawachikamach, the three communities closest to the proposed park, from Nov. 21 to 25.

The park is supposed to protect lands in and around the George River plateau, about 120 kilometres south of Kangiqsualujjuaq, and shelter this region from some of the huge mining and mineral development projects expected to roll out of Plan Nord.

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