Ministère des Ressources naturelles
Québec Mines Newsletter – Your career path is very impressive. How did you come to deal with the mining sector?
Pierre Lortie – When I did my engineering course, my first job was at the Lake Dufault mine near Rouyn-Noranda. When I went back, I specialized in engineering physics, but the mining experience was a good one, and a key one. Financing for mining activities, whether for exploration, planning or development, is obtained mainly from the financial markets. As Vice-President of the Montreal Stock Exchange, and later as President, one of my ongoing concerns was market access for junior companies and the place of Montreal as a financial centre.
More recently, I became involved in the development of the Bloom Lake iron ore mine. It’s one of very few mines to have been developed in Québec, in recent years, by an independent junior mining company – the other was Osisko. The experience gave me another perspective. It was an interesting challenge, and all the more so because it was brought to fruition.
QMN – Do you work at the provincial or international level?
PL – You can’t do any significant mine development in Québec without using both the Canadian and the international markets, whether for financing or for strategic partners. Developing a moderately important mine in Québec requires financing of between $1 billion and $1.5 billion.
QMN – Today, what is the connection between your duties and the mining sector?
PL – Dentons Canada is very active in the resource sector: petroleum, gas, mining, and so on. Several of my colleagues at the Montreal office are involved with mining sector mandates abroad, especially in Africa. The work, which requires expertise from Québec professionals, is done for international development agencies, governments that want to set up modern legal and regulatory frameworks, and mining companies.
QMN – From an economic standpoint, how would you describe the mining sector in Québec?
PL – It’s an important sector for several reasons. First, for the number of direct jobs in the sector. And second, for its expertise. Québec has traditionally ascribed a lot of importance to resource-related scientific and technical education, especially in the fields of geology, metallurgy and mine engineering. The effort has been considerable and sustained. Today, Québecers can be found in mining projects in Latin America and throughout the world. You don’t have to travel much to realize just how many Canadians work in the mining sector abroad. Everyone wins when these Québecers, who have expertise and experience, are given the opportunity to shine in Québec.
Peripheral to the mining sector, we also have the engineering services industry, the geophysics and geology industries, and equipment suppliers who export their products throughout the world. It’s also important to note that, for some metals, Québec imports ore that is subsequently refined and processed here. This is an important fact which is often forgotten in the debate regarding the use of our mineral resources.
QMN – Every year, Québec Mines opens its doors to the general public, on the Wednesday afternoon. What would you like Congress visitors to remember from their visit?
PL – I think the recent debates on the mining sector have generated an unfavourable impression, one that isn’t fair. It’s unfortunate, and we need to try and correct it. Also, what bothers me is that there are virtually no mining companies with head offices in Québec. Personally, I think that’s regrettable. We need a better balance, not by limiting the activities and expansion of Canadian or foreign companies in Québec – on the contrary – but by encouraging and promoting the development of mining companies from Québec that are active throughout the world. We’ve had some successes, in particular Osisko, whose head office is in Montreal, and Virginia Mines, which is based in Québec City. These companies set good examples for others to copy. We need a lot more like them, and that means promoting and appreciating the value of mining entrepreneurship.