With the ongoing NAFTA negotiation, the relationship between Mexico and Canada has taken on greater significance. Speaking at Mexico Mining Forum 2018 at the Sheraton Maria Isabel hotel on Wednesday in Mexico City, Quebec Minister of Natural Resources Pierre Moreau shared the province’s best practices as a model of sustainability.
The Quebec government developed its Plan Nord, which is an economic and social program aimed at creating jobs and developing wealth in the province’s northern communities, of which approximately one-third are native or aboriginal. “We are carrying out this project in conjunction with aboriginal populations and stakeholders in the area to promote strategic industries like mining,” he said.
In the 2015 census, Mexico registered 25.7 million indigenous citizens – or around 21.5 percent of its population. Mexico is also a country with a great number of remote locations, traversing desert, mountain areas and coastlines, and Moreau believes the same strategy applied in the Plan Nord to foment growth could apply to certain jurisdictions in Mexico.
The Plan Nord is expected to attract public and private investment of over CA$50 billion by 2025, and this number has already reached CA$16 billion since 2015. The government also created a dedicated fund that will be given CA$450 million to 2020. Moreau pointed out that the government works together with the private sector and research institutes to support R&D and promote private funding.
Similarly to SGM’s GeoInfoMex system, Quebec set up a geography infosystem that provides free access to all geoscience data collected by the province in the last 150 years. “This database is recognized as one of the best in the world and is regularly updated by the government, mining companies and academia,” said Moreau.
As a result of the Plan Nord, total mining investment in Quebec increased by 3 percent between 2015-16 to reach CA$2.6 billion. For 2017, mining investment was estimated to have increased 8 percent, representing over CA$3 billion. “The most important part of this trend is that the investment increase comes primarily from exploration and development,” Moreau said.
Additionally, the mining industry in the region represented a 150 percent rise in employment levels in the first two years since the Plan Nord was implemented. “There are now 12 mines currently in operation and many more being developed in the area,” said Moreau. “If mining projects are realized to their full potential, the number of annual jobs could vary between 50,000-250,000.”
But he pointed out that the environment must also be respected. The Government of Quebec also put forward guidelines that allow it to support projects that generate growth for communities and ensure these projects are socially acceptable. “Importantly, we are in the process of signing a tax agreement with municipalities so a proportion of the royalties goes to communities where projects are located,” he said.
The Quebec economy is booming and its job market is vibrant, ranking as one of the most attractive destinations for mining investment, rising from 18th to 12th in the Fraser Institute rankings in the last few years. “I believe we have a truly impressive story to tell the world,” said Moreau. “The Plan Nord is a golden opportunity for the mining industry.”