Quebec Mining Act Grants Private Interests Unfettered Rights

During the COP15 Biodiversity Conference in Montreal in December 2022, one issue that came up is that many countries with vast territories, such as Canada and the United States, have had mining laws in place for over a century that allow individuals, private organizations and government agencies to become owners of the bedrock that lies under privately and publicly owned lands. And it is happening despite the fact that governments are creating what they call "conservation areas," deemed to be "protected" from logging and mining operations.

Under Section 56 of the Quebec Mining Act, an applicant (an individual acting on their own or on behalf of a private organization) acquires the "real and immovable mining rights" to the bedrock located underneath a property once the "entry in the public registry" of a mining claim has been made.

These days, anyone can acquire a mining claim for less than $45 with a simple click online from a computer. Once acquired, under Section 64, the claim confers on its holder an "exclusive right to explore for mineral substances on the parcel of land subject to the claim." The claim holder can then renew it indefinitely at little cost, conduct drilling work and eventually operate a mine if a mining lease is obtained.

The same rights are given to the Crown under Section 61 of the Quebec Mining Act which stipulates: "A claim registered in favour of the state remains in force for the period and on the conditions determined by the Minister, who may dispose of it for the price and subject to the conditions determined by the Government."[1]

What these examples show is that past and present governments in Quebec have made changes to that legislation, often cosmetic, without touching its essence. The Mining Act grants narrow private interests unfettered rights to do as they please.

Quebec Mining Act and the New "Klondike"

The southern Quebec regions are currently under enormous pressure because of vast land acquisitions, thanks to the claim-staking allowed under the Quebec Mining Act, which is decried by many residents and Indigenous communities. Already nine regional county municipalities (MRCs), representing 142 municipalities have asked the Quebec government to impose a moratorium on claim-staking until a proper review can be done of the Mining Act, which was last revised by the Marois PQ government in 2013. They have in mind an overhaul of the Mining Act and the rules concerning Territories Incompatible with Mining Activities (TIAM). so that the Act doesn't conflict with human activities in and around municipalities and conservation areas where biodiversity thrives.

The Quebec counterpart of Mining Watch, Pour que le Québec ait meilleure mine, an organization that closely follows mining operations in Quebec from an environmental perspective, issued a statement on November 21 calling for a moratorium on mining claims. Due to the recent frenzy for minerals containing graphite, lithium, nickel, copper, and cobalt -- deemed critical to the manufacture of various varieties of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries -- "there has been an average 107 per cent increase in mining claims over the past two years in the three southeastern regions of Quebec analyzed. The following increases are reported: the Eastern Townships (+63%), the Lower St. Lawrence (+88%), and the Gaspé-Magdalen Islands (+139%)."[2]

Map of Southwestern Quebec showing mining claims (in red), parks and reserves (in green) and
rivers and lakes (in blue).

Connectivity and Integrity of Natural Environments at Risk

The same organization goes on to say that "Hundreds of mining claims are located close to large national parks or within valued natural areas such as wildlife reserves and regional parks, threatening the integrity and connectivity of these areas of conservation interest."

In an earlier statement, the same organization said, "In the last 18 months, the number of mining claims has more than doubled. In southwestern Quebec, there are now more than 15,000 claims, 56 per cent of which have been acquired since January 2021." This region extends northward to the Abitibi border, in what is known as the Grenville geological province containing rocks more than 1.2 billion years old. It is a huge area that extends over 1,500 kilometres north of the St. Lawrence River, from Georgian Bay in Ontario to the Lower North Shore of Quebec, up to the Newfoundland-Labrador border.

The rock formations of this geological province are known to have deposits of minerals containing lithium and graphite, much coveted by mining companies. Their extraction is essential to the Legault government's "world battery hub" in the Bécancour area where the Quebec and federal governments are pouring hundreds of million of dollars in public funds.

Map showing the extension in Eastern Canada, of rock formations, part of the Grenville Province.

This critical mineral extraction and processing along Quebec's St. Lawrence River is part of the U.S. "Securing a Made in America Supply Chain for Critical Minerals," a partnership to which Canada is a signatory. It is also part of the federal government's Canadian Critical Minerals Strategy, which too is intimately linked to its role in this partnership of securing a critical minerals supply chain for the U.S. war machine.


1. Mining Act, June 2, 2022, Quebec, pages 13-14.

2. "Mining Claims: The Urgency of a Moratorium, Pour que le Québec ait meilleure mine,", November 21, 2022.

(With files from Quebec government, Pour que le Québec ait meilleur mine.)

This article was published in
Volume 53 Number 2 - February 2023

Article Link:


Website:   Email: