Mining in Quebec: 15 Facts, History & More

Quebec mining facts and statistics

Did you know that Quebec is a mining powerhouse? As the largest Canadian province by surface area, Quebec’s subsoil comprises a variety of critical and strategic minerals which are important in manufacturing a wide spectrum of modern technologies.

Home to hundreds of mines, Quebec’s mining industry supports tens of thousands of jobs. It is a major supplier of several precious commodities including gold, iron, niobium, copper, titanium, salt, and graphite [1].

Below are more juicy facts on mining in Quebec that will give you a good idea of how important the industry is to Quebecois and Canadians. Also see:

15 Facts on Quebec's Mining Industry

Quebec abandoned asbestos mine

Abandoned asbestos mine in Quebec

#1 - Quebec’s mining sector directly employs 25,500 people, representing 10% of Canada’s mining jobs [2]

#2 - Altogether, Quebec’s mining industry supports nearly 50,000 direct, indirect and induced jobs [7]

#3 - Quebec as a whole derived $10.5 billion in benefits from mining activities in the province in 2020 [9]

#4 - Of Quebec’s 1.7 million square kilometres (km2) of land, only 1% is mined, and 5% is covered by mining rights [4]

#5 - Quebec developed 17 metals and 12 nonmetals, giving it Canada’s most diverse mining resource base [7]

#6 - Quebec is Canada’s second-largest gold-producing jurisdiction, accounting for 26% of the country’s annual gold production [8]

#7 - Quebec is home to nearly 900 mining-related facilities, with many communities counting on the industry for economic opportunities and development [3]

#8 - Mineral and metal commodities produced in Quebec include gold, iron, niobium, copper, titanium, salt, chrysotile, graphite, dimension stone, and construction materials [3]

#9 - Quebec’s provincial government receives more than $1 billion in tax revenues from the mining sector every year [7]

#10 - Mining is a significant source of revenue for both the Quebec and Canadian governments, which together received $2.4 billion in fiscal and parafiscal revenues in 2020, which included nearly $1.8 billion for the provincial government [9]

#11 - Between 2014 and 2020, the Quebec government saw revenues from the mining sector increase by 77.3%, showing the sector’s increasing importance to provincial coffers [9]

#12 - Quebec is home to more than 200 active mines, quarries and sandpits throughout the province; of that number, roughly 20 are metal mines producing commodities such as nickel, gold, zinc, copper, and silver [3]

#13 - Quebec’s mining sector saw nearly $4.8 billion of expenditures in 2022, up 10% year-over-year [6]

#14 - Miners in Quebec received a median income of $91,000 in 2021, an amount twice that of all industries in the province [2]

#15 - More than 90% of mining investments in Quebec are made in the Nord-du-Québec, Abitibi-Témiscamingue and Côte-Nord regions every year [2]

History of Mining in Quebec

stone quarry mine quebec canada

Stone quarry near Montreal

1530s – Mining in Quebec has a long and storied history dating back to the discovery of North America, when Jacques Cartier, a famous explorer of the day, thought he had found gold and diamonds along the slopes of Cap Diamant [3]. Little did he know it was only quartz and pyrite, according to the French kings’ lapidary (gem and stone expert), who analyzed the materials upon Cartier’s return to France.

1686 – Lead was first discovered in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region by Chevalier de Troyes, who examined metal traces on the eastern shore of Lac Témiscamingue [3].

1840s – Quebec did not have any true mines until several major mineral deposits were identified in the south. A famous gold nugget discovered by chance in the Beauce region by Clothilde Gilbert created the first gold rush for Quebec. This period was also when the province declared ownership of all underground mineral resources by introducing various legislative and administrative measures to control and promote mining exploration [3].

1847 – The first alluvial gold operation opens in Quebec [3]

1860 – A major copper and sulphur mine open in Quebec’s Eastern Townships around 1860, and is the first location of asbestos mining [3].

1890s – The lead discovery of the 1680s was largely forgotten for nearly 200 years until it was rediscovered by E.V. Wright in the 1850s and mined for silver, zinc, and lead in the 1890s [3].

1906 – Alphonse Olier and Auguste Renault discover the first gold deposit in the Rouyn-Noranda region, on the shores of Lac Fortune. Despite the discovery, the area only became a mining hub when Edmund Horne, a prospector from Nova Scotia, found a copper and gold deposit at the northern end of Lac Tremoy in 1922 [3].

1920s-1960s – Mining in Quebec was accelerated after World War I and also before/during/after World War II. Several new discoveries were made and several new mines opened, resulting in the first two major “mining booms” of the early to mid-20th century [3].

Present – Today, Quebec is a global mining leader with hundreds of mines extracting a full spectrum of valuable commodities across the province

Sustainable Mining in Quebec

Like the rest of Canada, Quebec takes sustainable mining seriously. The government has a detailed framework of rules and regulations mining operators must follow, promoting environmental protection and social responsibility by working together with local and Indigenous communities [5].

Quebec mines are more environmentally friendly than elsewhere in the world due to stringent regulations, the use of electricity from a 99% hydroelectricity grid, optimal energy consumption and world-class environmental standards and practices [5].

An example of Quebec’s sustainable mining initiatives is that companies must obtain approval of a rehabilitation and restoration plan before receiving a lease. Operators must also provide a financial guarantee that restorative work will be done on all disturbed lands [5].

Like in other parts of Canada, once mining operations in Quebec are completed, the land must be restored to a satisfactory condition similar to its original state [5].

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