Québec's soils hide a variety of minerals for the future, such as copper, graphite, niobium, zinc, cobalt, nickel, titanium and lithium. Also known as strategic and critical minerals, they are indispensable to support Québec's energy and technology transition.
Use of minerals for the future
Many of our everyday items contain minerals for the future, including tablets, cell phones, laptops, flashlights, lawnmowers and power tools, rechargeable batteries, sports items such as hockey sticks, tennis rackets, golf clubs, etc.
These minerals are also critical to the technologies used to help reduce greenhouse gases (GHG) and fight climate change, as they are used in wind turbines, solar panels and electric vehicles.
In the health sector, they are used to manufacture medical equipment, drugs, dental devices or cosmetics. These minerals are also sought after and used in innovation and artificial intelligence. For example, they can be used to design exoskeletons with electrical stimulation. These devices facilitate physical rehabilitation or lifting of heavy loads.
Where are the minerals for the future in Québec
Minerals for the future are found mainly in the regions of Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Côte-Nord, Nord-du-Québec, Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean, Outaouais, Lanaudière and Laurentides.
The Mineral Substances Portal presents the inventory of minerals and substances in Québec. Québec mining projects are listed on the interactive map of the Système d’information géominière du Québec (SIGÉOM – Geomining Information System) .
Recycling and upcycling of the minerals for the future
The use of the minerals for the future will accelerate as demand grows, so reserves need to be managed carefully. Ensuring their reuse and recycling is paramount.
Québec's approach is distinguished by its emphasis on upcycling, which means giving added value to the residues produced by resource development. Upcycling takes place both in the context of mining projects and in the context of industrial projects.
For example, for the upcycling of industrial residues, it is now possible to produce 99.99% pure scandium oxide from by-products of titanium dioxide production
without the need to extract more ore. Scandium oxide can be used to manufacture fuel cells (solid oxide) and in an alloy with aluminum used in sports equipment, for instance.
Global demand and promising innovations
The minerals for the future are in great demand. China, Russia and Australia are among the countries that are counting on their exploitation to meet demand. In this highly competitive environment, Québec must promote research and promising innovations, using the most advanced technologies, in order to stand out on the world stage.
The creation of a national R&D network is an example. This network will pool the expertise of organizations and businesses to support research and innovation in the most structuring mineral sectors for Québec.
Grants to support mineral exploration (in French) are also available to help mining proponents develop strategic and critical mineral exploration projects by assessing the quality of mineralizations.
Funding for battery research and the creation of new digital and technological tools for the mass processing of geoscience data are also some of the innovative projects put forward in Québec.
Thanks to advances in artificial intelligence, mining operations will increasingly be managed from the surface, from control centres. For example, the gouvernement du Québec supports the implementation of the pilot project from the MISA Group (Mission Mines Autonomes 2030 (Stand-alone Mines 2030 Mission)) (in French) that aims to experiment with the digital transition of mining organizations and operations. These innovations will make mines safer and more competitive and will improve the industry's energy balance.
Job creation in the mining sector
Training a skilled workforce to fill all positions in this sector is also a condition for success in developing the minerals for the future in Québec.
Several programs exist to support skills development in the mining sector. For example, a financial support of $2M has been put in place to train employees who want to specialize in drilling techniques for ore extraction. Unemployed individuals can receive financial assistance to train for jobs in the mining sector.
The acquisition of new knowledge related to the exploration, extraction, processing, valorization and recycling of minerals will be used to create quality jobs and support the economic vitality of regions.
Best practices in sustainable development
High standards of environmental protection and occupational health and safety are in place. Québec is recognized as a reliable and sustainable partner in the mining industry. It has modernized its laws and its regulatory framework (in French) to put the principles of sustainable development at the core of some of the most responsible mining operations in the world.
The government continues to expand its expertise in the environmental management of projects related to the minerals for the future by developing new tools to define them clearly. It ensures that the development of new mineral sectors is carried out in a way that respects the environment and the principles of sustainable development.
Québec is also contributing to the energy transition and the fight against climate change by implementing a number of policies such as a battery sector development strategy (in French), the Politique de mobilité durable — 2030 (in French) and the 2030 Plan for a Green Economy.
Mining projects in partnership with communities
Québec has created various tools for businesses as well as local and Indigenous communities to promote the social acceptability of mining projects. One example is the early consultation process for projects. As such, proponents are encouraged to foster development conditions that respect the environment and the mining project host communities.
The government has led by example by touring the regions to gather input on the development of the minerals of the future. They were used to develop the Québec Plan for the Development of Critical and Strategic Minerals.