August 2015    Print this article

Interview with Luc Blanchette, Minister for Mines

Jancimon Reid
Ministère de l'Énergie et des Ressources naturelles

In July 2014, Mr. Luc Blanchette, newly assigned to the role of Minister for Mines, was interviewed by Bulletin Québec Mines. After his first year with the Ministry, we were pleased when Mr. Blanchette agreed to another interview. Here is what he had to say.
The interview was filmed and divided into videos so that you can watch the answers to most of the questions. Videos are in French only.

If you’d rather read the interview, click here.

Hello Mr. Blanchette. It has been almost a year since we met you on behalf of Bulletin Québec Mines. Tell us about your first year as Minister.

To be honest, there were 6 months of adaptation and 12 months of operation, so it felt like 18 months in one year.  Watch the video


If you do not have access to Youtube, you can click here to view the video.

During your previous work experience, you were involved with the mining sector. As Minister for Mines, what did you learn during this first year that you didn’t know before?

I have 30 years’ experience as an economist in the mining industry, so it was indeed a field I was already familiar with. However… Watch the video

If you do not have access to Youtube, you can click here to view the video.

Which assignments captured your attention the most during the past year?

There are several. The first thing we had to do was reassure everyone, because the Mining Act had just been voted through in December 2013. Watch the video

If you do not have access to Youtube, you can click here to view the video.

When you started, you were committed to restoring a climate of confidence in the mining sector, which was sorely needed in Québec. Do you feel you have succeeded?

It was surprising. We were delighted because the best indicator is still the Fraser Institute, which ranked us 6th among 122 mining jurisdictions!  Watch the video

If you do not have access to Youtube, you can click here to view the video.

You spoke earlier about the round of consultations held in several regions across the province that helped you take the pulse of the mining sector. Tell us about your findings.

In Chibougamau, the people were content…
In Sept-Îles, it was a little different…
In Abitibi-Témiscamingue… Watch the video

If you do not have access to Youtube, you can click here to view the video.

The financing of mining projects is an important issue. In your view, where do we stand?

Basically, I’m not overly optimistic, but I’m not pessimistic either. I would say that we are experiencing relatively stable or even slightly positive growth. This seems to be the trend  Watch the video

If you do not have access to Youtube, you can click here to view the video.

In your opinion, what have been the main achievements during the past year?

Basically, the first major step was to introduce the regulation respecting mineral substances, natural gas and petroleum, which sets forth the provisions of the Mining Act. This includes the notion that exploration work cannot be carried out just anywhere, especially not on private land. People must be informed, notices published. This includes consultations, which companies—whether they be in exploration or mining—must hold with residents, communities and municipalities. This serves as a mechanism to organize citizens’ concerns, and in so doing will help companies plan mitigation measures. There are also fiscal measures, notably a 35% reduction in work requirements on claims. And the mandatory fees have been postponed for one year. We are very proud of that.

We are also proud of introducing the bill on transparency. It brings us in line with the United States, Europe and the rest of Canada.

Another source of pride is our economic diversity. Yes, iron has slowed due to the lower price worldwide, but lithium, rare earths and graphite are minerals that were not part of Québec’s repertoire just 20 years ago. This is a new direction for us, making us the most diversified Canadian province in terms of metals and minerals. This is significant.

Something else that I find very rewarding is the focus on the environment and social acceptability that has swept through the industry. It is not just theory and the government. The Canadian Mining Association put forth its initiative Towards Sustainable Mining, which was adopted by the Mining Association of Québec. All the association’s members, roughly 25 mines, decided to embrace the approach. It represents best practices in environmental matters and social acceptability, whether it be with host or Aboriginal communities. It can be thought of as an “ISO for mines,” ensuring a very responsible way of operating.

At this point, do you think there is a lot left to do so that the climate improves and investments multiply in the mining sector?

Before, we were very focused on exploration, mining and primary processing. Now this isn’t enough…  Watch the video

If you do not have access to Youtube, you can click here to view the video.

What do you think will take up most of your time in this coming year?

Without a doubt, the development of the Plan Nord region is a strategic focus that we will continue to work on. We must plan well. It’s not just about mining, it’s also about tourism, forestry, the environment. We want the overall plan to be structuring. We will have to invest in road, railway and maritime infrastructure; the same applies to telecommunications.

We also need to help people understand the mining industry, because it is an industry that is still poorly understood in many parts of Québec. Advancing the Plan Nord will surely benefit all the province’s regions. We have business to do; there are business projects to be realized. We need to get the rest of the world interested in Québec for its massive development potential. We can view the Plan Nord and the Maritime Strategy as two international development strategies.

The bill on transparency will likely take a lot of my time as well. We will go to the parliamentary committee again, so we will be engaged in many constructive discussions, or at least so I hope. We will also be working on regulatory simplification, to speed things up and avoid undue delays to companies.

In the context of the big cleanup currently underway in the Québec Government, I really count on the help and support of these civil servants, on their expertise, to ensure we develop in a manner that is environmentally friendly and in harmony with the communities that host the projects.

These are not simple challenges, but I think we can face them with confidence.

What is the overall message you would like to give to the general public about mining in Québec?

An important message about economic benefits. I said it earlier: economic benefits are not just for mining regions… Watch the video

If you do not have access to Youtube, you can click here to view the video.

You attended last year’s Québec Mines convention, a key event organized by the Ministry. What did you think of your experience?

It was absolutely fantastic!  Watch the video  

If you do not have access to Youtube, you can click here to view the video.

Thank you very much, Mr. Blanchette!

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