I had the incredible opportunity to travel across Quebec in the winter and last spring to animate the Institut du Nouveau Monde's Public Conversation on Quebec's Mining Future. I personally led the majority of 11 public assemblies, in 10 cities in Quebec, which allowed nearly 500 people to express their questions, concerns and ideas about mining development in Quebec.
I invite everyone to comment on the content of this report, which will of course be sent to the relevant ministers of the Government of Quebec, to the various regional and local authorities concerned and to the stakeholders in this sector. industry itself but also unions, municipal unions, the Federation of Chambers of Commerce, environmental organizations and interested citizen groups.
It is clear from this approach that Quebec needs a new shared vision of mining development based on transparency, consultation, maximizing spin-offs for Quebec, respect for communities, territories and the environment.
The Public Conversation made it possible to identify the prerequisites for this new vision of mining development in Quebec: greater transparency and expanded access to all necessary information; an independent benefit / cost analysis of the benefits of mining development; an objective review of the mining royalty regime; the imperative consultation of citizens in order to validate, if necessary and from the start of possible local mining development projects, the degree of social acceptability of these projects.
Participants in the Public Conversation on Quebec's Mining Future expressed high expectations and demands for a new dialogue and new practices in mining development in Quebec. It is at this inevitable price that we will be able to build together a new shared vision of the mining sector that will allow its development to continue in the most harmonious way possible.
Define mechanisms for determining social acceptability
The establishment of a national project of reflection, involving stakeholders, to concretely define mechanisms for determining the social acceptability of development projects, is a requirement that emerges from the conversations. This suggestion may well apply to all major projects, whether from the mining sector or any other development sector.
Mechanisms must be based on prior consultation, as early as possible, of the citizens concerned, and on the transparency of the industry and access to information. A binding framework should be established in order to eliminate as much as possible the tensions that Québec has experienced in recent years, when individuals and communities have had the acute and harmful perception that they are stripped of their rights and their rights. part of what they had taken years to build and protect as heritage. A binding framework would also respond to a request from the Public Conversation from industry representatives for clear, predictable and fair rules.
This conversation must continue and become permanent. Government, industry, unions, ecological and social groups as well as citizens must learn the lesson which is essential from our approach: dialogue is possible and it is the only way of solution.
Economic, social and environmental concerns
The Public Conversation on the Mining Future of Quebec made it possible to highlight certain more specific concerns. From an economic standpoint, citizens are keen on intergenerational and interregional equity in current and future mining development, equity resulting in the maximization of spinoffs for Quebec, in particular through the acquisition of state holdings in mining companies. and by more secondary and tertiary processing of ore in Quebec. Citizens want these benefits to be more visible for the regions and localities concerned, in particular through a redistribution of royalties between the local, regional and national levels, as well as through local purchasing and investments in R&D.
Citizens are keenly interested in forward-looking and cautious planning for the post-mining boom or the inter-boom, for example by creating a sovereign wealth fund, diversifying the regional economies where the mining sector is important, and by active support for entrepreneurship, both mining and non-mining.
On the social front, citizens have been very concerned about the health and quality of life challenges - both individual and collective - in the affected communities, also emphasizing the need for local hiring to counteract negative impacts. commuting (Fly-in / fly-out)as well as the importance of continuing education for mining sector workers and the maintenance of high retention goals in areas with high labor demand that could jeopardize it.
Finally, on the environmental level, the citizens who took part in the Conversation affirmed the absolute need to better apply the various legal and regulatory constraints that already exist by ensuring the necessary means of control and by promoting investments in industry R&D. to reduce its ecological footprint in order to make environmental protection a real lever for the development of the Quebec mining sector.
An independent approach
I recall that the Conversation was an initiative of the Institute of the New World. To ensure independence, the MNI had formed an advisory committee made up of representatives of environmental groups, social groups, unions, municipalities and industry. The MNI had offered the industry, through its Minalliance group, to cover most of the costs of the operation. Donors made a written commitment to respect the MNI's complete independence in the conduct of the process and this commitment to non-interference was strictly adhered to throughout its duration.
Now that the balance sheet is public, it belongs to all those who want to be inspired to act. The MNI will continue its efforts to publicize its content and is committed to working on the implementation of ideas related to its field of expertise, namely participation and public consultation and social acceptability.
I invite you again to leave me, here on this blog, your comments on the contents of the report, as well as your questions.