The history of mining in Québec goes
back almost to the discovery of North America, when Jacques Cartier
thought he had found diamonds and gold on the slopes of Cap Diamant. However, when he returned
to France, Pliny, the lapidary of François I, announced
that what he had actually discovered was quartz and pyrite.
The discovery of the first lead deposit occurred
in 1686 in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region, when Chevalier
de Troyes investigated traces of the metal on the eastern shore
of Lac Témiscamingue, previously noted by the inhabitants
of Fort Témiscamingue, guided by Amerindians. The discovery,
however, was forgotten for the next 200 years, until it was
rediscovered by E.V. Wright in the 1850s and mined for lead, zinc
and silver in the 1890s.
The first true mines did not open in Québec
until the 1840s, when several major mineral deposits
were identified, mainly in the south. Following
the discovery of a famous gold nugget in the Beauce
region by Clothilde Gilbert, completely by chance,
Québec experienced its first gold rush,
and by 1847 the first alluvial gold operation
had opened. This was also the period when Québec
declared its ownership of all underground mineral
resources and, by introducing various legislative
and administrative measures, acted to control
and promote exploration and mining in Québec.
A major copper and sulphur mine opened in the Eastern
Townships around 1860, which was also when asbestos was first
In 1906, Alphonse Olier and Auguste Renault
discovered the first gold deposit in the Rouyn-Noranda region, on
the shores of Lac Fortune. Despite their discovery, the area only
became a centre for mining following the staking of claims and the
discovery of a copper and gold deposit at the northern end of Lac
Tremoy by Edmund Horne, a prospector from Nova Scotia, in 1922.
The early 1920s was when mining really became established in Québec.
The growth of the mining industry, which coincided with large-scale
industrial expansion elsewhere, quickly made Québec an important
source of minerals for the most highly industrialized areas of North
After World War II, growth was concentrated mainly
in the asbestos sector, and later in copper and iron. From 1922
to 1945 and 1955 to 1965, several discoveries were
made and several new mines opened. The first "mining boom"
of the early 20th century resulted from the discovery
of surface deposits by prospectors using traditional methods, while
the second resulted from the discovery of hidden deposits using
aerial detection methods. For example, this technique was used to
discover deposits of zinc and copper sulphates in the Matagami and
Joutel regions, around the same time the Chapais-Chibougamau sector
was being developed.
The last decades of the 20th century
have brought a better understanding of how mineral deposits form,
and allowed exploration at greater depths. Major discoveries such
as those made at the Ansil, Bousquet 1 and 2, Doyon and
Louvicourt mines, and Zone 20 in the LaRonde mine, are all
from this period.