Steps in the Mining Project
1. Project preparation
The promoter must first carry out exploration work to identify a deposit with an economically viable quantity of mineral resources for development. Exploration work consists mainly in geophysical, geochemical and geological surveys, sampling and drilling. It takes several years and some significant investments to complete this phase. The promoter is asked to introduce public participation mechanisms in the early stages of project preparation.
Once a mineral deposit with significant tonnage has been identified on the property, the promoter can carry out studies to assess the economic parameters of its future mining activities (preliminary economic assessment, pre-feasibility study and feasibility study). These studies present details of the project, including:
- its geographical boundaries;
- the volume and grade of the reserves and mineral resources on the property;
- the type of extraction activities being considered;
- ore processing methods;
- production rate;
- the mine’s useful life;
- the target market;
- the capital investment required for development;
- the operation’s yields for shareholders.
The promoter can then use the results of the feasibility study to assess the relevance of continuing to develop the project.
2. Impact assessment and review
The promoter must obtain the rights, licences and authorizations required for exploration, construction and operation of the mine. Depending on the geographical location of the project –on land under agreement in Northern Québec or in Southern Québec – and the quantities of ore to be extracted (for projects located in Southern Québec), the environmental and social impact assessment process, where it is applicable, will be different. Generally speaking, the impact assessment provides a profile of the environment in which the project will take place and presents the anticipated repercussions of the proposed activities, along with the steps to be taken by the promoter to mitigate them. Public participation or public consultation must take place as part of the environmental and social impact assessment. This gives citizens a chance to learn about the project and express any concerns they may have before authorization is granted by the Agreement Administrator (MDDELCC Deputy Minister) or the Government, depending on whether the project is located in the North or the South.
In all cases, the promoter must file and obtain approval for a site rehabilitation and restoration plan before the mining lease is issued. The financial guarantees must be deposited in accordance with the schedule established by regulation.
3. Construction and operation
Construction and commissioning of the mine may take several years and require significant investments (of between $50 million and more than $2 billion). Construction includes the following infrastructures:
- mine installations: access ramp, shaft, tunnels, mine workings, headframe, etc., depending on whether the mine is open-pit or underground;
- service buildings;
- waste rock pile;
- mine tailings site;
- concentrator (depending on the project);
- processing plant (depending on the project);
- road, railway, port, electricity transmission line, airport (depending on the project).
- The purpose of a mine is to extract ore while minimizing the environmental footprint, and with due regard for the communities living close by. In particular, a mine lessee is required to set up and maintain a monitoring committee until all the work provided for in the rehabilitation and restoration plan has been completed.
Mining activities include extraction, ore concentration and sale.
4. Closure and restoration
A mining company may close its mine when the reserves have been exhausted or when it is no longer viable to extract the ore. Closure must be planned even before the mine is opened. The rehabilitation and restoration plan for the site must be approved by the Ministère de l’Énergie et des Ressources naturelles before the mining lease is issued. In addition, the company must deposit a financial guarantee in three instalments during the two years following the date on which the plan is approved. The amount of the guarantee must be sufficient to cover the cost of all the work that will be required to restore the entire mining site to a satisfactory condition.