The number of mining claims in Quebec has jumped 65% in the space of two years, according to figures provided by the Minister of Natural Resources and Forests, Maïté Blanchette Vézina.
More than 182,800 claims were in force in Quebec at the end of the 2020-2021 fiscal year. This number rose to 302,564 as of February 28, 2023, revealed Ms. Blanchette Vézina during the study of the budgetary appropriations of her department, Tuesday, at the National Assembly.
Approximately 9% of these claims are located in southern Quebec, with the vast majority being further north in the province.
The claims currently represent 16 million hectares, equivalent to less than 10% of the area of Quebec, said Ms. Blanchette Vézina, then closely followed by the united deputy Alejandra Zaga Mendez.
“There is indeed an increase in the number of claims, which is not, and I repeat, dependent on the mines, which fluctuates according to the value of the potential minerals”, affirmed the minister.
The claim is the mining title granting an exclusive right to carry out exploration work for mineral substances. The vast majority do not necessarily end up at the exploitation stage.
Exploratory work is currently taking place in 20% of the claims, but only 1% of them are targeted by “more advanced” work with “impacts”, specified the minister. This work consists in particular of small blasting, the development of trails and logging.
The explosion in the granting of mining titles is causing growing concern among the population. A coalition of organizations is calling for a moratorium on claims, to which the minister closed the door last March.
She believes that this would send the wrong message that “Quebec is holding back the decarbonization of the economy”, while certain minerals allow the manufacture of electric vehicles and bicycles.
Ms. Zaga Mendez explained that certain regions have experienced a “metarous” increase in claims such as Lanaudière, Outaouais and the Laurentians.
“Right now, people are standing up and seeing entire villages being reclaimed,” the MP for Verdun said Tuesday.
Ms. Blanchette Vézina wanted to be reassuring, repeating that the mining industry must comply with “strict rules”.
She also recalled that public consultations on the supervision of mining activities are underway. Pressed with questions, the minister did not want to advance on the measures she would like to implement to ensure a “harmonious development” of this sector, preferring to wait for the conclusions of the consultations.
During this time, MRCs can identify “territories incompatible with mining activity”. However, this designation must receive the approval of the Government of Quebec. The latter is to revise its orientations in connection with the process, indicated the minister.