Quebec government unveils Plan Nord and details of its implementation

Author: Pierre-Christian Labeau Publication | May 16, 2011


On May 9, 2011, the Quebec government released details regarding the substance and implementation of the Plan Nord, described by the government as one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken in Quebec. The Quebec government hopes to achieve a number of objectives with the Plan Nord, including making Quebec a world leader in the realm of clean, renewable energy and maximizing its mineral resource potential.

Territory covered by the Plan Nord

The territory covered by the Plan Nord encompasses all of Quebec's territory north of the 49th parallel (see the map) and covers 1.2 million km2 ( 72% of Québec's geographic area). It contains large deposits of  gold, nickel, platinum group metals, zinc, iron ore, diamonds and ilmenite. Lithium, vanadium and rare earth metals are also found there.

This territory also has one of the world's largest fresh water reserves, accounts for over 75% of Quebec's installed hydroelectric generation capacity and includes vast, untapped potential water, wind and photovoltaic (solar energy) resources. Finally, it contains over 200,000 km2 of commercial forest, which represents more than 53% of Quebec's operable forests.

A large part of the territory covered by the Plan Nord is governed by the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, signed in 1975 by Quebec, Canada, the Crees and the Inuit, and by the Northeastern Quebec Agreement, signed in 1978 by Quebec, Canada and the Naskapis. Less than 2% of the population of Quebec lives in the territory, i.e., just over 120,000 inhabitants, including 33,000 Aboriginal people.

Key elements of the Plan Nord

The government expects implementation of the Plan Nord over the next 25 years to generate more than $80 billion in public and private investments, $47 billion of which will be used to develop renewable energy sources and $33 billion to develop the mining sector and public infrastructure (roads, airports, etc.).

As for green and renewable energy, the Plan Nord provides for the development of 3,500 megawatts of renewable energy, including 3,000 megawatts of hydroelectricity, 300 megawatts of wind power and 200 megawatts from other renewable energy sources. In particular, Hydro-Québec will support projects not linked to its main network in order to respond specifically to the energy needs of industrial projects, including mining projects. All told, these developments would represent $25 billion in additional investments.

In the mining sector, the government's priority actions include carrying out a mineral potential assessment to stimulate and support mining exploration.

To oversee implementation of the Plan Nord, the Government of Quebec will establish a public coordinating body, the Société du Plan Nord. This body's initial action plan will extend from 2011 to 2016 and will provide for investments totalling $1.6 billion, of which $1.2 billion will go to infrastructure development and $382 million to social measures.

The Government of Quebec will also provide provincially owned Investissement Québec with $500 million over the next five years for investments in businesses participating in the Plan Nord. Investissement Québec will negotiate equity participations on a business basis in the form of joint ventures or purchases of share capital or investments in the form of convertible debentures.

The purpose of this publication is to provide information as to developments in the law. It does not contain a full analysis of the law nor does it constitute an opinion of Norton Rose OR LLP on the points of law discussed.

No individual who is a member, partner, shareholder, director, employee or consultant of, in or to any constituent part of Norton Rose Group (whether or not such individual is described as a “partner”) accepts or assumes responsibility, or has any liability, to any person in respect of this publication. Any reference to a partner means a member of, as the case may be, Norton Rose LLP or Norton Rose Australia or Norton Rose OR LLP or Norton Rose South Africa (incorporated as Deneys Reitz Inc) or a consultant or employee of Norton Rose LLP or Norton Rose Australia or Norton Rose OR LLP or Norton Rose South Africa (incorporated as Deneys Reitz Inc) or one of their respective affiliates with equivalent standing and qualifications.