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Challenges for Quebec mineral exploration

The mining industry has always been characterized by the variability of its cycles, mainly associated with the value of metal and with global economic performances. However, the current decline in mining investments cannot exclusively be attributed to the sector’s economic slowdown. The intense competition between different exploration companies for access to investments is one of their major challenges. And since exploration companies do not make production revenues, these investments are crucial to new knowledge acquisition work in the field. As a consequence, deposit discovery rates are reduced, as is the attractiveness of the sector.

Due to their decisions or to their management framework, different levels of government have a significant influence on the functioning of the sector, its overall predictability, and its future growth. The granting of environmental authorizations in forestry, the tax incentives, and the presence of infrastructures facilitating travel (especially in northern territories) all contribute to the realization of mineral exploration projects. However, the prohibitions and restrictions which govern this activity, as well as the overlap of regulations, decrease the amounts spent on exploration work which lead to discoveries.

Due to its specific characteristics (project life and development cycles, international scope, economic impacts on the entire community, social and environmental impacts), mineral resource development in Quebec calls upon a great number of government stakeholders (Sustainable Development, Municipal Affairs, Aboriginal Affairs, Economic Development, etc.) who must ensure concerted, effective action.

Certain challenges will have to be considered within the next year. These include the implementation of the regulation resulting from the changes made to the Environment Quality Act, the introduction of the act respecting the conservation of wetlands and bodies of water, and the approach by the Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs regarding the strategy for protecting caribou. The modifications to the Mining Act must also be monitored with the goal of improving and reducing the administrative management to which businesses allot a great deal of energy and costly investments.

According to a study done by the association, mining exploration companies have a limited power over changes that can be made to the industry’s intrinsic characteristics in order to attract and retain employees. Mining exploration is a cyclical industry with its own set of instabilities, which are reflected in employment: workers must face market uncertainties, with no guarantee for longterm stability. Recruitment challenges are even greater in the context of full employment. The demanding working conditions for employees and their obligation to work in isolated regions, along with the strong competition for labour, are all factors which make an employer’s search for employees even more difficult.

In order to improve the deposit discovery rate, the acquisition of new geoscientific knowledge and personnel recruitment and retention, companies must further invest in innovation. In fact, innovation must be a core priority for businesses and for levels of government that support research and development. Companies that are the most proactive and creative in facing these challenges will be best prepared to draw the attention of investors.

Today, exploration goes well beyond geology. Businesses in this sector must also be capable of meeting technical challenges by innovating and adapting to the environment where exploration projects are developed. The ability to achieve this will become their driving force for the years to come. In summary, their ability to manage all exploration-related challenges will allow them to stand out and to successfully complete their exploration projects.