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TORONTO – The Canadian province of Quebec plans to develop its huge frozen northern reaches into a powerhouse of mining and renewable energy, targeting C$80 billion ($83 billion) of private and public investment.
Quebec’s 25-year “Plan Nord,” launched on Monday, envisages funding for infrastructure, mines and the development of renewable energy, taking advantage of an improving investment climate as the earth warms and polar ice melts.
Quebec says the region has abundant deposits of nickel, cobalt, platinum group metals, zinc, iron ore, ilmenite, gold, lithium, vanadium and rare-earth metals. “Northern Quebec has incomparable mining potential,” Natural Resources Minister Serge Simard said in a release.
“The opening up of vast, previously unexplored territories is paving the way for unprecedented economic growth.”
Plan Nord covers an area of 465,000 square miles (1.2 million square km), roughly the size of the whole of South Africa. The sparsely populated region has 11 mining projects in development now and over C$8 billion in mining investment.
“(Plan Nord) will create or consolidate 20,000 jobs a year, on average, and generate C$14 billion in revenue for the government and Quebec society,” said Premier Jean Charest.
Quebec aims to attract C$47 billion in private and public investment for renewable energy and C$33 billion for mining and infrastructure. It will amend its mining regulations to ensure the government gets “fair economic return” from its resources in the largely untouched region.
The province, which topped a Fraser Institute survey of best mining districts from 2007 to 2009, slipped to third after it raised mining taxes unexpectedly last spring and is now in fourth place on uncertainty over mining legislation.
“My own sense is that Quebec will remain sensible and that if there are (mining tax) increases they won’t be otherwordly,” said Fred McMahon, Vice President of International Research for the right leaning think-tank. “But there is that danger in the current atmosphere.”
Gold producers Goldcorp and Agnico-Eagle have projects in the province, while steel giant ArcelorMittal operates iron ore mines in Northeastern Quebec.
The government conceded that “the vastness of the northern territory poses a daunting challenge from the standpoint of access and transportation and communications infrastructure.”
The region is also already home to more than 75 percent of Quebec’s hydroelectric power, with government-owned Hydro-Quebec alone producing 34,490 MW a year. Plan Nord envisages an additional 3,500 MW of additional “green” power, primarily through hydroelectric dams, with a small amount being generated through wind turbines and underwater generators.
Quebec also predicted environmental and social benefits, with 50 percent of the territory set aside for nonindustrial purposes, including new provincial parks and environmentally protected areas.
The government will spend C$382 million over five years on housing, health and education for local communities.