Quebec Ministry of Natural Resources: Interview with the Honourable Franois Gendron,Minister of Natural Resources, Qubec
CMJ: You are from Abitibi-Tmiscamingue, and grew up near La Sarre.
Gendron: My family lives in La Sarre. La Sarre is not really a mining town, but it’s near Val-d’Or, Rouyn-Noranda, Matagami.
I’ve always been interested in tangible, measurable resources, so I’ve been dealing with mining people for the last 35 years, and I am very much aware of what our mining industry is and what it represents.
CMJ: How significant is the mining industry in Qubec?
Gendron: It’s a very important industry in Qubec. The value of metal and mineral shipments, including aluminum, reached $17 billion for 2000, ranking Qubec eighth in the world. Mining and metallurgy in Qubec represents 54,000 jobs, and 1% of Qubec’s GDP.
CMJ: How much of Canada’s mining industry is in Qubec?
Gendron: If we look at mining only, we are second in Canada. We’re Number One in the country for exploration. The value of exploration investments in Qubec last year amounted to $112 million.
CMJ: Over the years, the Qubec government has made it easy for companies to explore and open new mines. Has this affected the level of exploration and mining in the province?
Gendron: Over the last few years, exploration spending has dropped in Qubec, as in Canada, as everywhere else in the world. Over the last five-year period, however, if you look at the value of exploration expenses in Qubec, it has dropped, but at a slower rate than in the rest of the world.
Given that exploration spending was going down, even though not as dramatically as elsewhere in the world, the government more or less decided to help junior exploration companies with financial assistance. Over the last few years, this financial support has helped to reopen mines, for example the Beaufort, Sigma-Lamaque and Joe Mann gold mines. It also made it possible to accelerate feasibility studies on certain projects. And for certain mines like Francoeur or Copper Rand that were shut down, financial support was provided to develop new parts of the mines, find new ore and resume mining operations.
Even though exploration investments are declining, our geoscience databases, which are very extensive, and our new mode of claim acquisition through map-staking are two factors that also helped, besides the financial assistance, to maintain or slow down the drop in exploration spending in Qubec.
CMJ: Are you increasing your attempts to attract exploration investment to the province?
Gendron: Exactly. The Mines Branch has developed a marketing plan to help promote our vast territory and its mineral potential to investors. The Fraser Report [Fifth Annual Survey of Mining Companies from the Fraser Institute] last year put us in first place tied with Ontario. This is a good example of what we’ve been doing over the last few years; thus it has ensured that Qubec is recognized as a good place to explore.
Over the next few years, we intend to continue to promote very aggressively our potential, our vast territory and all the other measures we have at our disposal, to say that “We’re open for business in mining”. That’s what we’re aiming for.
CMJ: What is the Qubec government doing to make sure that aboriginal people and other remote residents benefit more from nearby exploration and mining activity?
Gendron: The new agreement that the Qubec government has signed [“Agreement Concerning Mineral Resources Development in the James Bay Region“, signed in March 2002] has two objectives. The first is a direct measure, to create a Cree Council for Mineral Exploration to help them directly. And the second objective is to make sure that a portion of the money derived from the extraction of mineral resources from their territory goes back to them. This is true for any native community, be it Cree or Inuit or others.
What we were looking for in these different agreements was to include the native people in the whole process of mineral exploration and development, and promote the mineral potential of these territories. So it becomes inclusive, to help them understand that promoting the mineral potential of their territories will give value to their territories and bring more money to their communities. Mineral development will become economic development for them.