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Quebec Mining Law Reform

Quebec’s Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, Maïté Blanchette-Vézina, tabled Bill 63, Loi modifiant la Loi sur les mines et d’autres dispositions (Act to amend the Mining Act and other provisions). The main purpose of the Bill is to reform the regulatory framework surrounding mineral exploration, and to respond to growing concerns around the industry.

If the Bill is passed as is, it will be forbidden to take a claim on private lands and in “urbanization perimeters” (essentially “cities”). However, municipalities will be able to request an exception to this prohibition. Claims already granted will remain valid.

In an effort to curb speculation, the Government of Quebec aims to forbid selling a mining claim without first having carried out exploration work. Also, exploration work must be undertaken within three years of taking a claim – otherwise it will be withdrawn. Currently, only a fraction of mining claims (between 13% and 17%) are undergoing exploration. The government anticipates the new legislation will result in 20% to 25% of claims being abandoned.

In addition, to prevent companies from rushing to take claims on land before the law is in effect, the government has included a transitional measure, so that this section is applicable immediately.

Another major feature of the bill is that all new mines in Quebec will be subject to an environmental assessment conducted by the Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE). This measure is designed to promote social license for mining companies by forcing them to be more transparent.

The number of mining claims has exploded in recent years, as companies have gone in search of emerging minerals such as lithium and graphite. Exploration has increased sharply in southern Quebec, where companies have come face to face with disgruntled landowners, cottagers and elected municipal officials. Mrs. Blanchette Vézina had the difficult task of putting an end to the controversy while promoting the development of Quebec’s mining potential. At a press conference, she noted that the province’s subsoil abounds in critical minerals, and that she seeks to encourage their extraction and processing on Quebec. The bill will be submitted for detailed study at the National Assembly in the fall. 

The environmentalist group Québec Meilleure Mine called on the Legault government to introduce a mechanism for withdrawing mining claims, noting that there are currently over 350,000 of them.

The Liberal Party, the official opposition, for its part expressed a desire to collaborate with the government, as the mining sector is “crucial” to the Quebec economy.

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