The grand plan for Quebec’s North – by Barrie McKenna (Globe and Mail – May 11, 2011)

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Reality Check: The $80-billion plan comes with few details; much of that money is already committed, or expected to come from the private sector

Think of Jean Charest’s $80-billion Plan Nord strategy as a bridge between resource development and the 33,000 aboriginal people of the North. The Quebec Premier is betting aboriginal groups will buy into development if they see tangible benefits. So he’s promising to pump taxes and new higher mining royalties into roads, airports, housing, health care and education, including $1.6-billion between 2011 and 2016 (average: $326-million a year).

But details on much of the $80-billion, 25-year plan is either murky or already committed. More than half the money comes from already planned or proposed Hydro-Québec projects ($47-billion). Private investment in mining and government-financed infrastructure make up the rest.

Transportation

Quebec has four northern ports, 26 airports, 1,200 kilometres of rail tracks and 51,000 kilometres of logging roads. The province is vowing to integrate the region’s ports, airports and roads into a more cohesive network. The first phase of that work includes $821-million worth of road expansions. It’s also exploring the feasibility of putting a deepwater port in Whapmagoostui-Kuujjuarapik as well as linking Kuujjuaq to the rest of the province by road or rail

Energy

Hydro-Québec is spending billions on several major hydro projects, including the 920-megawatt Eastmain-Sarcelle-Rupert on the North Shore; the 1,550-megawatt La Romaine on the North Shore ($6.5-billion); and the 1,200-megawatt Petit-Mécatina, also on the North Shore. The provincially owned utility is also promising other small-scale projects for local use by mining companies and aboriginal communities, including a wind power-diesel project in Kangiqsualujjuaq and an underwater generator in Kuujjuaq. But details are scarce.

Mining

Investment is pouring into mining development in northern Quebec at a rate of nearly $1-billion a year, employing 10,000 people in the region. The area has tapped an untapped nickel, cobalt, zinc, iron ore, copper, gold, uranium, apatite, diamonds, niobium and tantalum. Eleven major mining projects are in various stages of development, including Xstrata’s $1-billion phase 2 of the Raglan mine in Nunavik (nickel and copper); New Millenium Capital Corp.’s $4-billion DSO project on the North Shore (iron); Goldcorp subsidiary Mines Opinaca Ltée’s $1.4-billion Éléonore project in James Bay (gold); and Stornoway Diamond Corp.’s $450-million Renard mine in James Bay (diamonds).

For the rest of this article, please go to the Globe and Mail website: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/industry-news/energy-and-resources/the-grand-plan-for-quebecs-north/article2017468/

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