Quebec Mining Week

With 255,00 active mining claims in Quebec
new coalition challenges mining sector
to develop sense of public responsibility

From the Desk of Joan Kuyek
National Coordinator
MiningWatch Canada

At the opening of Quebec Mining Week, a new coalition, called "Pour que le Quebec ait meilleure mine!" (roughly: A better public face for the role of mining in Quebec), has raised concerns about the lack of interest in the environmental and social impacts of mining during the current industry euphoria.

While the Mining Week program has dozens of public, educational activities underlining the socio-economic benefits of the Quebec mining industry, none of them profoundly address the socio-economic repercussions and challenges that are always posed by the mining industry.

“With more than 255,000 active mining claims, the mining boom which we see in Quebec, risks blasting the environment and special natural places unless we ensure that safe-guards are in place”, according to Christian Simard of Nature Quebec, one of the coalition representatives.

For Nicholas Mainville (SNAP-Quebec), “The time has come to open a large public debate on the role of the mining sector, on its environmental impacts and on the political power asserted by the industry.”

The Coalition demands a profound reform of the Mining Act, of which the principles, based on “Free Mining”, date from the times of the Gold Rush.

Ugo Lapointe, a researcher with the Forum of the Institute of Environmental Sciences at UQAM, explains: “ The current success of the mining sector is not an accident. “Free Mining” gives quasi-absolute priority to exploration and mineral exploitation on more than 85% of Quebec territory, public and private, and it encroaches on the rights of property owners and municipalities.”

The Mining Act systematically impedes the creation of new protected areas. It interferes with nature conservation objectives, not only in those territories that have mineral claims, but also in zones identified as having “mineral potential” – which may be huge swaths of the Quebec landscape.

Michel Goudreau, Chair of the Quebec Environmental Network underlines: “ It is high time to think of integrating the mining sector with the other uses of the land, with a real sustainable development perspective. Such a reform would allow us to respect the new law on sustainable development in Quebec.”

These recommendations are to be found in a larger report drafted by the coalition, which also looks at the practices of mining companies. According to Henri Jacob of ABAT (Boreal Action of Abitibi Temiskaming), “ It is dangerous to generalize that open pits are less expensive to operate, when they leave immense holes on the landscape and permanent environmental wounds. We are talking here not about sustainable development, but of sustainable holes.”

Jacob refers to the proposed Osisko mine, in the heart of the village of Malarctic, which is expected to displace 200 homes and four institutional buildings.

The coalition fears that the Quebec mining “paradise” of today (according the Fraser Institute), will turn into a veritable “hell” for future generations. Jacques Saucier of the Comite de Vigilance Malarctic, is on his guard: “We must not repeat the errors of the past, with orphaned mines that are restored at the expense of the Quebec taxpayer, 100% of the costs of reclamation absolutely have to be assumed by the mining operator.”

On the occasion of Mining Week and the anticipated announcement of the Mineral Strategy for Quebec, the coalition is questioning the lack of transparency and democratic process which currently characterizes the mining sector. In reality, the great majority of mining projects, exploration and development, escape the public consultation processes set out by the BAPE (the Office of Environmental Assessement).

The time has come to initiate a real public debate about the role of mining development in Quebec. To this end, the coalition will soon release its recommendations for a sustainable Quebec that will truly have better mines and a better image.

The coalition Pour que le Quebec ait meilleure mine! is made up of regional, provincial and national environmental and social development groups, and researchers, who are interested in the social and environmental consequences of mining development in Quebec.

For more information:

Mylene Bergeron, Nature Quebec 418-648-2104 ext 2074 or 418-933-2031 communications@naturequebec.org

Sophie Paradis, SNAP 514-278-7627 ext 221.
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Joan Kuyek
National Coordinator National Coordinator
MiningWatch Canada

MiningWatch Canada
Suite 508, 250 City Centre Avenue
Ottawa, Ontario  K1R 6K7  Canada
tel. (613) 569-3439  fax: (613) 569-5138
e-mail: joan@miningwatch.ca
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