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Legal Risk Rating
Score: 67
Low Risk
Quebec's Mining Code contains some elements that are more likely to be found in Africa, than the Americas, and leaves it far behind its Canadian counterparts in its regulation of the industry. Determined to be more French than Canadian, Quebec has forged a direction that will undoubtedly prove unwise as exploration dollars are spent elsewhere in the years to come.

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Mining Overview Commentary plus sign



Canada, located on the North American continent between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans to the east and west and the Arctic Ocean to the north, is the second largest country in the world by total area, with the 11th largest economy based on GDP (World Bank, 2014). Canada is one of the largest mining nations in the world and the minerals industry is a solid part of the country’s economy, contributing over $54 billion to the GDP in 2013 and accounting for almost 20% of Canadian goods exports. The most important mining provinces are Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and Saskatchewan.

Quebec is located in eastern Canada and is the country’s largest province. In 2014 its economy contributed to over 18% of Canada’s total GDP, the third largest contributor after Ontario and Alberta (Statistics Canada). The province has a diversified economy, with important sectors including aerospace, finance, technology, transportation, agriculture, tourism, and of course, mining.

According to The Mining Association of Canada, in 2014 Quebec was responsible for 19.5% of the country’s total mineral production, second only to Ontario with 24.6% of production. The Ministry of Economy identifies three main mining regions within the province: Abitibi-Témiscamingue where gold, silver, zinc and copper are mined; Côte-Nord where iron is mined; and the Nord-du-Quebec region where nickel, gold and zinc are mined. Quebec is the largest producer of both iron ore and zinc in Canada and the second largest producer of gold. Other key minerals include nickel, copper, silver, niobium and tantalum. Canadian diamond exploration and development company, Stornoway, is also in the process of constructing Quebec’s first diamond mine, with commercial production forecast for December 2016.

In the 2015 Fraser Institute Policy Perceptions Index, Quebec placed at 22nd out of the 109 jurisdictions surveyed.


Pursuant to the Canadian Constitution, regulation of mining activities and mineral rights in the Canadian provinces is the responsibility of the provincial governments and it is worth noting that, unlike the other Canadian provinces and territories, Quebec is governed by civil law. The principal mining legislation in Quebec is the Mining Act (M-13.1) (MA), which was updated as recently as 2015, after considerable reforms were adopted in 2013, and the Regulation Respecting Mineral Substances Other Than Petroleum, Natural Gas and Brine (MA Reg.). Other relevant legislation includes the Mining Tax Act and the Environmental Quality Act and its accompanying regulations.

The mineral industry in Quebec is overseen by the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources (Ministère de l’Énergie et des Ressources Naturalles) (MERN), which is headed by a Minister of the same title. The Minister of Mines (Minister) also sits within the Ministry and is responsible for the administration of the MA and the grant of mineral titles in the province.

Quebec uses a computerised system known as GESTIM (Gestion des titres Miniers Title Management) for the online management of mining rights in the province. GESTIM allows users to manage claims online; consult mapping technology and data; and conduct various other administrative tasks.


Any person or company may hold mining rights in Quebec. Mining claims may only be staked by the holder of a Prospecting Licence (PL) (ss. 19 and 20, MA), which is issued by the MERN following a short application and payment of the relevant fees (s. 23, MA and Ch. 1, MA Reg.). A PL is granted for a period of five years, renewable for further five-year periods upon payment of the relevant fee (s. 24, MA). A PL is non-transferable (s. 23, MA).

The MA also provides for the following:


  • Mining Claim (MC): Any holder of a PL may stake a claim on an area open for prospecting. A notice of staking must be made within 20 days, for registration in the public register of real and immovable property rights (s. 46, MA). Claims are issued on a first come / first serve bases, save where the property has historically proven mineral value or otherwise meets criteria established by the Minister (s. 49, MA). Where the order of priority cannot be determined it will be decided by the drawing of lots (see ss. 54 and 207, MA), although it is somewhat unclear as to why map staking would ever give rise to uncertainty as to order of priority. A MC grants the holder the exclusive right to explore for mineral substances on the parcel of land subject to the claim, save for certain exceptions (see s. 64(1)-(3), MA). Claim holders are permitted to extract or dispatch mineral substances for sampling only, unless the Minister permits otherwise (s. 69, MA). MC’s are granted for an initial 2-year term, with perpetual renewals permitted for additional two-year terms, providing claim holders have paid the relevant fees, complied with the MA and regulations, and met the work requirements listed under Section 72 of the legislation. Work reports must be submitted to the Minister annually (s.71.1, MA; see also ss. 72-80, MA).


  • Mining Lease (ML): Holders of a MC shall be granted a ML provided the claim holder (a) establishes the existence of indicators of the presence of a workable deposit; (b) pays the annual rental fees; (c) has provided a rehabilitation and restoration plan; (d) has an approved environmental authorisation; and (e) has submitted a project feasibility and market study report (s. 101, MA). The area of land must not exceed 100 hectares, unless the Minister grants the lease for a larger area (s. 102, MA). Mining operations must commence within five years (s. 118, MA). ML’s are granted for a period of 20 years, with three mandatory renewals of 10 years each permitted upon application, providing the lease holder has: applied within the given time frame; submitted a report establishing that mining operations have been performed for at least 2 years in the last 10; provided a scoping and market study as regards processing in Quebec; paid the annual fees; and complied with the relevant legislation and regulations (s. 104, MA). Additional five-year renewals may be granted after the third renewal at the discretion of the Minister. Annual reports must be submitted under section 120 and scoping and marketing studies relating to processing in Quebec must be submitted every 20 years (s. 120 and 1. 118.1, MA).


The MA also provides for leases to mine surface mineral substances. The type of lease granted (exclusive or non-exclusive) depends on the surface mineral substances mined.

MC and ML are transferable providing transfers are registered within the public register on presentation of a copy of the instrument evidencing the transfer and upon the payment of transfer fees (see s.14, MA). Mining rights may be revoked under Chapter VIII of the MA. Grounds for revocation include: failure to comply with the conditions, obligations and restrictions of the mining right; failure to pay the annual fees and royalties; obtaining or renewing a mining right via fraud, misrepresentation or mistake; being found guilty of an offence under the MA within the last five years; failure to comply with the Mining Tax Act or the requirements in relation to economic spinoffs; and failure to begin operations within the five year time limit.


According to section 101.0.2 of the MA, the Quebec government may, “on reasonable grounds”, require that the economic spinoffs within Quebec of the mining be maximised (see also s. 119, MA). In addition, leaseholders are required to establish a monitoring committee to foster the involvement of the local community. The committee must be established within 30 days from the grant of the ML and must be maintained until all work provided for in the rehabilitation and restoration plan has been completed. The lessee has the right to determine the number of representatives on the committee but, as a minimum, the committee must contain one representative from the region from each of the following: the municipal sector; the economic sector; the general public; and the Native community where applicable. A majority of the committee must be independent from the lessee.

Metal mine projects with a production capacity of less than 2,000 metric tonnes per day must hold a public consultation in the project region and send a report to the Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks prior to submitting the application for the mining lease.

Mining rights holders must obtain written authorisation from the landowner, at least 30 days in advance of works, to order access to the site. It is also possible to acquire any real or property right, allowing the leaseholder to access the site or conduct exploration or mining activities, providing agreement is reached with the landowner. In cases where agreement cannot be reached the mining rights holder may obtain the property via expropriation. Where the rights holder intends to acquire a residential immovable or an immovable used for agriculture or farmland, the rights holder must pay the costs of the professional services required to negotiate the agreement, up to a maximum of 10% of the value of the immovable. Certain limitations on expropriation apply and compensation appears to be based on agreement only (see s. 235, MA).

Before a ML can be granted a certificate of authorisation under the EQA must be obtained and a rehabilitation and reclamation plan must be approved. The rehabilitation and reclamation plan must contain: a description of the rehabilitation and reclamation work to be carried out in relation to the mining activities in order to restore the land to a "satisfactory condition"; conditions and phases of work where progressive work is possible; the conditions and phases of work to be completed in the event of cessation of mining activities; a detailed estimate of the costs associated with rehabilitation; and a backfill feasibility study in the case of an open pit mine (see s. 232.2, MA). A guarantee must be provided to cover the costs of rehabilitation. Revised plans must be submitted every five years or when other changes occur (s. 232.6, MA). Rehabilitation work must begin within three years after operations cease (232.7.1, MA). Following an application process outlined under the EQA, involving the preparation and submission of an environmental impact assessment statement and a public consultation period, the certificate of authorisation will, on the recommendations of the Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and the Fight Against Climate Change, be granted (with or without conditions) or refused by the government. Subtle differences in the EA process and a range of different agencies and committees will operate in the territory subject to the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement.


See Quebec - Environmental Overview Commentary.

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Environmental Overview Commentary plus sign



Canada is the second largest country in the world by geographic size, covering nearly 10 million square kilometres. The country is divided into ten provinces and three territories, namely Alberta; British Columbia; Manitoba; New Brunswick; Newfoundland and Labrador; Nova Scotia; Ontario; Prince Edward Island; Quebec; Saskatchewan; Northwest Territories; Nunavut; and Yukon. Canada’s only international land border is shared with the U.S and is the longest in the world; eight of the thirteen provinces and territories, plus 13 U.S. states sit along the border.

Quebec is located in the east of the country and is Canada's largest province. It is bordered by Ontario, James Bay and Hudson Bay to the west; the Hudson Strait and Ungava Bay to the north; Newfoundland and Labrador, the Gulf of St Lawrence and New Brunswick to the east; and the U.S states of New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine to the south.

The majority of Quebec is covered by the Canadian Shield, which occupies around 90% of the territory; the remainder of the territory is occupied by the St. Lawrence Lowlands, which run alongside the St. Lawrence River and are home to the majority of Quebec’s population, and the Appalachian Uplands in the north of Quebec which contain a series of hills, plateaus, mountains and high plains running along the border with the United States. Quebec is home to a vast series of lakes and rivers, including the St. Lawrence River, a significant commercial watercourse which runs past Montreal and Quebec City and stretches over 3000km into North America. The climate of Quebec is varied, with three main climatic regions. Broadly speaking the south and west areas of the province enjoy warm summers and long cold winters; the areas in the north of the province experience artic weathers with long cold winters and cool summers; while the central parts of the province have short, warm summers and very long and very cold winters.

Quebec is home to over 90 species of mammal and 300 species of bird including the: Artic fox, Canada lynx, harp seal, bald eagle, polar bear, wolf and snowy owl. Numerous varieties of spruce, fir and pine trees, as well as maple, elm, oak and birch are amongst Quebec’s impressive flora.


The Environmental Quality Act (EQA) and its accompanying Regulation on Environmental Impact Assessment and Review (EIA Reg.) are the main pieces of environmental legislation governing the environmental assessment (EA) process in Quebec. For projects located within certain areas of Quebec other legislation may also be applicable including: the Regulation on the Evaluation and Review of Environmental Impacts in Some of North-Eastern Quebec (North-Eastern Reg.) and the Regulation on the Evaluation and Review of Environmental Impacts and the Social Environment in the Territory of James Bay and Northern Quebec (James Bay Reg.). It is worth noting that the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA) also contains environmental protection regimes applicable to the areas that the JBNQA covers and in turn the EQA, under Chapter II of the Act, provides for a special regime applicable to the James Bay and North-Eastern Quebec region.

In Quebec the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment and the Fight Against Climate Change (Ministère du Développement durable, de l'Environnement, et Lutte contre les changements climatiques (Ministry)) is the responsible government body for environmental protection, while the Minister of the same title (Minister) is responsible for overseeing the EA process. The Minister will ultimately make recommendations to the government which, by Order in Council, will approve or reject a project. The Minister is supported in his role by a number of different advisory committees and agencies, depending on the location of the project. In southern Quebec the Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE) is the agency responsible for facilitating local involvement in proposed projects and conveying the concerns and opinions of local communities to the Minister. In northern Quebec, in the territory subject to the JBNQA a variety of different organisations play a role in the environmental process including: the Evaluating Committee (EVCOM); the James Bay Advisory Committee on the Environment (JBACE); the Environmental and Social Impact Review Committee (COMEX); the Kativik Environmental Advisory Committee (KEAC); and the Kativik Environmental Quality Commission (KEQC).

Certain mining project may also require a federal level EA, alongside the provincial assessment. Such projects will need to consider the federal legislation, namely the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act 2012 (CEAA), while the relevant federal authority will be the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (Agency). The government of Quebec and the government of Canada have entered into an agreement in relation to EA’s, in order to streamline the process when both a provincial and federal level assessment are required. The agreement provides for a co-operative environmental assessment, allowing the Agency and the Ministry to meet their responsibilities while streamlining the two EA processes for the proponent.


According to Reg. 2 (p) of the EIA Reg. “the opening and operation of: a metals mine or an asbestos mine that has a production capacity of 2000 metric tons or more per day, except in the case of rare earth metals; a uranium mine; a rare earth mine; any other mine that has a production capacity of 500 metric tons or more per day” are all subject to the EA process provided for under the EQA and require a certificate of authorisation from the government before operations may be undertaken (see also s.31.1, EQA). The MA also makes clear that a certificate of authorisation under the EQA must be obtained before a mining lease can be granted.

According to the Ministry guidelines and under the terms of the EQA, the EA process in Quebec has six main stages. 

  • Stage 1: The project proponent must file a written notice with the Minister, describing the general nature of the project. The Minister will then respond, providing the proponent with the specific requirements for the environmental impact assessment statement (EIAS), including (according to the Ministry website): project justification; project options; biophysical and human settings; impacts; mitigation measures; emergency response measures and monitoring and following up programs (see s. 31.2, EQA and Reg. 3, Division III, EIA Reg.).


  • Stage 2: Following the preparation and submission of the EIAS by the project proponent, the Minister, alongside specialists from the Ministry and other government agencies, shall verify the contents of the EIAS and, if necessary, request further information / clarifications from the proponent or request that additional research be completed and provided in order for the project impact to be fully assessed (see s. 31.4, EQA).  


  • Stage 3: Within 15 days of receipt of the completed EIAS and accompanying application, the Minister shall initiate the public information and consultation phase of the EA process, making the EIAS and application publically available for a 45-day period. The project proponent must publish a notice (the content of which is outlined in Schedule B, EIA Reg.) in a daily and a weekly newspaper circulated in the region where the project is located and a daily newspaper in Montreal and Quebec. A second notice must also be circulated in a weekly newspaper in the same region within 21 days of the first notice. In addition the BAPE will issue a press release announcing the public information and consultation phase. During the 45-day period any person, group or municipality may submit a written request for a public hearing to the Minister via the BAPE. The written request must contain reasons for the public hearing. Unless the Minister believes the hearing to be frivolous, he shall direct the BAPE to hold a public hearing and provide a report on the hearing and its findings. The BAPE must conduct the hearing and provide the report within 4 months of the Minister authorising the hearing. The Minister will make public BAPE's report within 60 days.


  • Stage 4: Specialists from the Ministry and other relevant government agencies and departments will then consider the application, alongside any report made under stage 3, in order to advise the Minister as to the environmental acceptability of the project and any recommended conditions regarding authorisation; the relevant parties will submit such information to the Minister in the form of a report (see Ministry website).


  • Stage 5: If the Minister considers the EIAS satisfactory it will be submitted, alongside the application and any relevant reports, to the government for authorisation. According to Reg. 16.1, EIA Reg. the maximum time from the initial notice in stage 1 to the submission of the application to the government is 15 months, excluding the time taken for the proponent to prepare the EIAS. The government may issue or refuse a certificate of authorisation for the project, with or without amendments to the application and with any conditions the government deems necessary (s. 31.5, EQA).


  • Stage 6: The project proponent must ensure the project is carried out according to the authorisations given. Impacts and the effectiveness of mitigation measures must be monitored. When required monitoring reports must be submitted to the Ministry.


 James Bay and North-Eastern Quebec

Projects that are located in the territory of Quebec that is subject to the JBNQA are regulated under Chapter II of the EQA. While the EA process itself is generally the same the committees and organisations supporting the Minister in carrying out the EA process differ.

For the region south of the 55th parallel: 

  • The JBACE is established under the JBNQA and s. 134, EQA. The JBACE is responsible for environmental protection in the region and will make recommendations to the government on environmental laws and policies and environmental and social impact assessments and processes. 


  • Under Schedule A of the EQA "all mining developments, including the additions to, alternations or modifications of existing mining developments" are subject to the EA process outlined in Chapter II of the EQA and require either a certificate of authorisation or an exemption from the EA process (s. 154, EQA).


  • Project proponents must submit the same notice under stage 1 above (s. 155, EQA); the Minister shall pass on notice to the EVCOM who can make recommendations to the proponent, via the Minister, as to the information which should be submitted. The proponent must submit such preliminary information to the Minister, who will also pass on the information to EVCOM.


  • The EVCOM will make recommendations to the Minister regarding the type of EIAS required (preliminary, detailed or both) and the scope of the statements the proponent must prepare (s. 158, EQA). The Minister shall, within 30 days of receipt of the initial written notice, notify the proponent and the Cree Nation Government of the decision as to the type of EIAS required (s. 159, EQA). The various content requirements for the EIAS are outlined clearly in Reg. 5, James Bay Reg..


  • As above, the proponent shall prepare and submit the EIAS alongside the application for authorisation. A copy shall be sent to COMEX and the Cree Nation Government. The Cree Nation Government and any Band or Cree village may then, within a period of 30 days, submit representations to the COMEX. The COMEX shall, within 45 days of receipt of the EIAS, make recommendation to the Minister as to whether or not the project should be authorised and on what conditions, if any (s. 162, EQA); at this time the Minister can request further information from the proponent (s. 163, EQA).


  • A certificate of authorisation or refusal shall then be given to the proponent (s. 164, EQA).


  • In certain lands, the functions, duties and powers of the Minister shall be conferred upon a person appointed by the relevant Cree village and Band (s. 166, EQA).


For the region north of the 55th parallel:

  • The KEAC is established under s. 169, EQA with a similar advisory role to the JBACE.


  • The KEQC is also established and conducts the same activities in relation to the EA process as the EVCOM and the COMEX as listed above.


  • Unlike the general EIA process and that applicable to the territory south of the 55th parallel the EQA specifically requires an environmental and social impact statement. The remainder of the EA process is similar to that listed above.

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