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Mines against citizens? |

Dissatisfaction and mobilization is growing on the issue of Quebec’s mining industry, and for good reason.

Posted on January 26th


Here is the increase in the area of ​​the areas subject to mining concessions in certain regions only between January 2021 and November 2022: Lanaudière 408%, Outaouais 211%, Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine 139%, Laurentide 71%. Quebec average: 40.6%…in 22 months. Apparently, elected local officials are urging Quebec to better regulate the industry.

What do you ask?

The law theoretically allows cities to limit mining activity by identifying areas incompatible with that type of activity, but this law, no pun intended, is riddled with holes.

For example, the law does not allow a city to protect all agricultural land against the installation of a mine, only so-called “dynamic” agricultural land that is currently being exploited. The others are at the mercy of the mining companies.

Another problem: it is the municipality that must prove that the mining activities are incompatible with the uses on the territory. In other words, a priori we can plunder nature to create a mine, unless the community proves that doing so would harm certain human activities. The government should shift the burden of proof to the mining companies, that should go without saying.

But that’s not all. This need to demonstrate the existence of significant human activity in order to exclude land from areas that can be exploited leads to absurdities.

The example of Mont Rigaud is quite eloquent. The mountain is a sensitive area for the water supply of almost 100,000 people and a green space that the MRC Vaudreuil-Soulanges wants to protect. For years, the MRC, along with several other partners, including the Quebec government, has been buying land to protect Mount Rigaud from future real estate projects. Result: There are no recreational tourism facilities or real estate developments in the vicinity of the target areas… therefore the MRC cannot include them in areas incompatible with mining activities!

Let’s go on. The protection of the landscape and the intact environment are not recognized criteria for the exclusion of an area from the usage zone. Resort sectors and the outdoor industry are therefore threatened.

For example, the MRC de Papineau wanted to protect Lac Écho, a jewel of the Papineau-Labelle nature reserve, rich in tourist leisure activities. She proposed creating a one-kilometer protective strip around the lake to protect the landscape and the sound environment. Impossible: the beauty of the place and its tranquility are not acceptable criteria to prevent a mining company from settling there.

Finally, the municipalities have no power over acquired rights. They are being asked to live with the mining concessions already awarded, rather than being given the means to get rid of them.

The fundamental flaw in the Mining Act is that it puts private interest ahead of public interest. In fact, the Mining Act takes precedence over the Land Use Planning and Development Act. It’s like the era of iron for a penny a ton.

Collectively, we therefore favor mining activities to the detriment of municipal, forestry, agricultural and recreational activities. Is that really what we want as a society?

Municipalities are aware of the importance of making room for the mining sector. The Papineau MRC, one of the most militant, protected 51% of its territory with the rules in force. She wants to protect 11% more, which would give the mining companies a playing field of 1200 km2. That’s generous for an MRC whose identity slogan is ‘The Land of Green Gold’.

Quebec is one of the few states in the world where virtually all minerals occur. Cities know that it is in our interest to exploit this immense potential, especially since the alternative is often to import Chinese minerals. They are not against mines, they want their exploitation to respect nature (water, landscapes) and local communities.

Land use planning is a core competence of municipalities. They are also experts at arbitrating between different uses on their territory. They are the place where citizens can most easily express themselves. One of the relatively easy ways to respond to their concerns is to give the Land Use Planning and Development Act precedence over the Mining Act… which would also bring us into modern times in terms of the principles that should guide us!

Finally, Quebec must give itself new powers… Currently, it cannot even revoke a mining concession on grounds of public interest such as preserving the natural environment or respecting the rights of indigenous people!

Mr. Legault often repeats that if there is no social acceptance, there will be no mine. To achieve this acceptance, cities, Indigenous communities and the Quebec government itself must have the means to protect their territory, our territory for all.