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Quebec mining industry urging provincial government to help restore stability

MONTREAL - The province's mining community is urging Quebec's new Liberal government to help restore some stability in the industry.

Investor confidence was tarnished by numerous political skirmishes that preceded the adoption of the province's new Mining Act last December, the head of the Quebec Mining Association said Monday.

Josee Methot said the process took its toll on the industry and she added that the new Liberal government will have to play a part in restoring confidence.

"We absolutely have to reverse this trend," Methot said in a speech to the Montreal Board of Trade. "The image investors have of us is very poor, so we need to change this trend and look to the future."

Methot's plea came during a panel discussion organized by the board of trade at the launch of Quebec mining week.

Several hurdles had to be overcome before the Mining Act was finally adopted. The contentious issues included royalties, protection of the environment, the establishment of protected areas, ore processing and the role of municipalities.

Now, it's time to turn the page, Methot said.

She was joined for the discussion by Eric Tetrault, director of communications for ArcelorMittal, who expressed concerns the Liberal government is about to heavily promote its "Plan Nord Plus" project.

Philippe Couillard's Liberal government has said it wants to attract mining investment from around the world.

To that end, the premier appointed Natural Resources Minister Pierre Arcand as the point man for the province's ambitious northern development plan and named Luc Blanchette as a junior cabinet minister in charge of mines.

Tetrault said the promotion of Quebec's mining potential comes as prices remain low and as the province's already-established mining industry faces its own set of needs.

"There's a kind of danger on the horizon with the revival of the northern development plan because the government that's back in business is the one that launched the Plan Nord," Tetrault said.

"And there is no doubt that politically they want to revisit an exercise to seek foreign investment.

"But the problem is that in 2011, when the Plan Nord was in place, the resource prices were much higher and this is no longer the case today."

Tetrault urged the government to open discussions about more favourable electricity rates to help mining firms already operating in Quebec.

He believes that access to natural gas on the North Shore is an issue that must be addressed. Also, Tetrault suggested the government revisit the idea of a rail link to help increase production.

Methot said the mining industry is important to the province — and not just in remote regions. She said it provides work for some 3,800 suppliers, including 1,800 in Montreal.

That creates some 45,000 direct and indirect jobs in the province, she added.

The Canadian Press

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