Could you provide us with details of how your Ministry is promoting the link between mining and the energy transition?
99% of energy generated in Québec is renewable (95% hydro, 4% wind, 1% fossil). My vision is that we can use this capacity to go further and promote more mining activity. Mining accounts for 32,000 jobs in Québec, half of which are direct jobs and well remunerated at around C$100,000 annually. Québec has 22 of the minerals that the US has identified as critical and strategic. Over the last couple of years, we have been meeting with US States to discuss this, and they all agreed that sourcing options are currently very limited and that a lot will be at stake from a geopolitical standpoint. We were the first province to prepare a plan for strategic minerals in Canada and the Ministry is putting C$90 million towards this plan.
How much of this involves other parts of the value chain beyond mining?
Currently, the market is excellent for gold and iron, but strategic minerals require a different approach, because we see them as a complete value chain, going from exploration and exploitation to mineral transformation within the province and ending with recycling. For us, it is non-negotiable that mineral processing for strategic minerals needs to happen within Québec.
Today, there are 100,000 electric vehicles in Québec, which is 50% of the total amount in Canada, even if we only have 24-25% of the population. By 2030, we expect to have 1.5 million electric vehicles in Québec, so EVs will amount to 20% of total vehicles. By 2035, there will be no more sales of combustion engine cars. These are clear policies to work with. Additionally, by 2028-2030 the market will be mature enough to allow for a strong recycling segment and a circular economy.
How are current high metals prices boosting tax revenues and more mining investment?
Just in royalties, the mining industry represented C$393 million in 2020, versus C$290 million in 2019. Beyond that, there is the revenue from taxation for corporations and individual workers. When the metal prices are good, this positively impacts the whole economy, particularly in mining regions. We are implementing our own development plan for the North with C$1.4 billion in public investment in infrastructure and technology. That is the bit we can do from the government, but what makes the difference in terms of mining investment is metal prices.
When metal cycles are not good, however, we need to be well prepared through economic diversification. As an example, Rio Tinto Fer et Titane has a joint project with the Ministry to extract 3 million tonnes per year (mt/y) of scandium from waste. This is a niche metal, with global production of 15 million mt/y. Scandium allows to double or triple the strength of alloys for the aerospace industry, and this can complement very well Québec’s aluminum industry in Lac-Saint-Jean.
What makes Québec an attractive mining destination, and what is your government doing to improve permitting processes?
To open a mine in Québec you need 660 different permits, so we cannot be like a madhouse where an investor has to knock on a dozen different doors. All involved ministries need to sit at the same table, and the mining company should only deal with one window. We have six pilot projects with this methodology, with the objective of reducing delays by 35%. So far we have already achieved a 20% reduction.
Québec is the best jurisdiction for mining investment, because we have everything you need: the mineral deposits, expertise, hydropower and a big neighbor who is hungry for our minerals. Therefore, investors need to follow us closely, not just on the mining side of things, but also on the development of the battery industry as well.