On April 17, 2012, an Act respecting natural heritage
conservation and the sustainable development of the area covered by
the Northern Plan (Bill 65), was tabled in the Québec
National Assembly and referred to a committee for consultation.
Bill 65 is part of the development project of Northern
Québec involving investments of $80 billion over the next 25
years announced on May 9, 2011 by the Government of Québec
(the Plan Nord). While no date has been confirmed for the adoption
after first reading at this time, Bill 65 aims to reserve a portion
of Northern Quebec from industrial activity.
The Plan Nord covers an area of almost 1.2 million square
kilometres North of the 49th parallel, which represents 72% of the
province's territory. If Bill 65 is enacted in its current
form, 12% of the area covered by the Plan Nord will be reserved
from industrial activity by 2015, 20% by 2020 and finally 50% by
2035. Public consultations will be held to determine which areas
will be reserved, as more than half of the reserved territory has
yet to be identified. At this time, 9% of the area is reserved from
One can expect that key areas with high mining potential will
not be affected by Bill 65, as the primary objective of the Plan
Nord is to develop the economy by capitalizing on the
province's resource potential and creating the equivalent of
20,000 jobs per year. Interestingly, Bill 65 does not prohibit the
mining of surface minerals in reserved areas, but rather requires
that the authorization of the Minister of Sustainable Development,
Environment and Parks (the Minister) be obtained1. The
introduction to Bill 65 states that the reserved area is to
"benefit from measures to promote the sustainable use of
resources," meaning that sustainable surface mining projects
could be allowed within the reserved area.
Additionally, Bill 65 will also provide for the:
creation of marine reserves and the recognition of man-made
restatement of the Minister's obligation to keep a public
register of protected areas 3;
creation of a reporting process with respect to the
conservation measures applicable in the reserved area; and
introduction of penal provisions and certain regulatory
Given the fact that environmental measures were to be adopted
concurrently with the Plan Nord, the tabling of Bill 65 does not
come as a surprise.
The Plan Nord is an ambitious project, it will open up
Quebec's vast territory to the exploration and development of
its natural resources and it will have a significant impact on the
mining industry in Quebec. We will continue to provide ongoing
updates on the developments relating to the Plan Nord.
François Paradis is a partner in the
firm's Business Law Department. Hugo-Pierre
Gagnon is an associate in the Corporate Practice Group of
our Montréal office. Alexandre Fallon
practice focuses on litigation, including commercial litigation,
class actions, environmental, regulatory and aboriginal law,
insolvency and restructuring, consumer protection, arrangements and
constitutional law. Pierre Fournier-Simard has
successfully completed the Quebec Bar in December 2011 and is now
working as an articling student in the Corporate department.
1 Bill 65, art. 27 and 48.
2 Defined as "an area established to protect the
biodiversity of an inhabited terrestrial or aquatic area having
biophysical features that warrant conservation as a result of,
among other things, human activities performed over time in harmony
with nature, and whose preservation depends on the continuation of
those activities by the community."
3 Such a obligation also exists under the Parks Act
(R.S.Q., chapter P-9)
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