Nunavik’s Makivik Corp. wants impact and benefits agreements to remain private
Reforms to Quebec's mining act don't reflect existing agreements: Nunavik groups
Nunavik groups say proposed changes to Quebec’s mining act don’t go far enough to address the region’s distinct needs and existing agreements.
Bill 43, a bill to reform Quebec’s mining act, was presented last spring, although public hearings on the bill wrapped up in Quebec City Oct. 1.
The draft bill imposes tougher environmental protections while increasing legal requirements for mining companies looking to explore in Quebec — changes that are welcomed in Nunavik.
But Makivik Corp. said the bill should not require that impact and benefits agreements between Nunavik and mining companies be made public. In other words, these should remain secret.
Article 163 of Bill 43 calls for information obtained from holders of mining rights to be made public as the provincial government sees fit.
That information includes the quantity and value of ore extracted, as well as the royalties paid out during the previous year.
“These are private agreements between Aboriginal groups and the mining companies,” said Makivik spokesman Adamie Delise Alaku, who presented to the hearings Sept. 30. “And we are a private corporation.”
“We want Inuit companies to have a chance to bid on these projects,” he said. “If these are made public, you’d have southern contractors jumping on it and Inuit entities would lose out.”
The majority of Hydro-Quebec’s IBAs remain confidential, Alaku pointed out.
If agreements were made public, Makivik also fears that governments may see room to cut core funding to social services in Nunavik, Alaku said.
“We don’t want funding to be reduced because of what they’re seeing in these IBAs,” he said. “IBAs are meant as catch-up agreements.”
Makivik was not alone in its request — Quebec’s Cree and Innu groups also told the hearings that their agreements with mining companies should be kept confidential.
Alaku said the issue reveals a lack of understanding of the reality in Nunavik and other northern and Aboriginal regions of Quebec.
Makivik, along with the Kativik Regional Government, told the hearings last week that Bill 43 should conform to its existing agreements: the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement and the 2002 Sanarrutik agreement on social and economic development, which also includes provisions for mining.
Makivik has suggested the government draft a second part of the bill to address the territory covered by the JBNQA.
Under a Nunavik mining project, Sanarrutik says that Quebec will facilitate the signing of agreements between the Makivik and mining companies around issues like monitoring, financial arrangements, employments and contracts.
Last week, the KRG made a number of recommendations to the hearings in a brief, which asked for amendments to the draft bill to clarify the legal framework that should apply to Nunavik.
The KRG also asked for provisions on land use planning that would provide it with planning powers, as well as the creation of an environmental and social monitoring committee at the start of each mining project.
“The draft bill contains some important improvements on the existing mining act; for example, the requirement to notify the KRG about exploration activities,” said Michael Barrett, assistant director of renewable resources, environment, lands and parks, at the KRG.
“However we have concerns, about the rapidity with which mining companies can acquire claims through the ‘click and claim’ system,” said Barrett, who presented to the hearings Sept. 30.
“Also the new act should contain provisions so that regional authorities participate in any process to identify lands north of the 55th parallel that are incompatible with mining activities.”
There are currently 60,000 to 70,000 claims in the territory of Nunavik, the KRG says.
Bill 43, which was drafted last spring, is the third attempt to amend Quebec’s mining legislation since 2010.
Under the draft bill, mining companies would face stiffer penalties under Quebec’s Environment Quality Act.
The bill requires mining companies to submit feasibility studies before getting a lease; it would also empower the government to refuse a lease or end one for public interest reasons.
A general clause in Bill 43 says that Aboriginal group must be consulted on mining projects that take place on its territories, although there are no specific measures in the bill on how that should happen.
Quebec MNAs will vote on Bill 43 in the National Assembly this fall.