New technologies are leading to an increased use of natural resources. Some of those resources, such as critical and strategic minerals, have become strategic and indispensable to the development of innovative sectors. The demand for these minerals is growing rapidly, but their supply is limited.
Critical minerals are defined by their essential nature for key sectors of the economy. Their supply is considered fragile. Companies may find it challenging to obtain them because of the explosion in demand, the increasing consumption of these resources or geopolitical considerations.
There are no substitutes for these minerals. They are essential for the manufacture of certain goods.
Québec’s critical minerals are:
Strategic minerals help Québec achieve the objectives of its key policies, such as the upcoming plan for a green economy and the Politique de mobilité durable — 2030. These minerals are used to manufacture a number of technologies, including green technologies. Thus, they are contributing to the fight against climate change.
Québec’s strategic minerals are:
- Platinum group elements
- Rare earth elements
The Québec Mineral Substance Portal provides a description of these minerals’ properties as well as their uses, their geological potential and their exploration in Québec.
Many critical and strategic mineral development projects are currently underway in Québec. Most of these mining projects are in the regions of Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Côte-Nord and Nord-du-Québec, while processing projects are mostly done in Montérégie and the greater region of Montréal.
The only active graphite mine in Québec is located in the Laurentides (lac des Îles). Most graphite mining projects are in Côte-Nord, Outaouais, Laurentides and Lanaudière in the geological province of Grenville.
Nickel, copper, cobalt and platinum group elements mines are located in the Ungava Peninsula, in Nunavik.
One of the few niobium operations, the Niobec mine, is active in Saint-Honoré in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean.
Titanium is mined in Havre-Saint-Pierre, in the Côte-Nord region, while vanadium development projects are located in Chibougamau, in the Nord-du-Québec region.
Lithium development and mining projects are numerous in Eeyou Istchee Baie James and in Abitibi-Témiscamingue, between Val-d’Or and Amos.
Rare earth elements are actually abundant, but in relatively low concentrations in the environment. Québec has some deposits where these elements are more concentrated, such as the
Kwyjibo development projects in the Côte-Nord region and Strange Lake in the Nord-du-Québec region.
Zinc and copper mines and development projects are concentrated in the southern area of the Nord-du-Québec region and in Abitibi-Témiscamingue.
Use of critical and strategic minerals in daily life
Critical and strategic minerals play an essential part in our daily lives. They can be found in various items we may use every day, like tablets, cellphones, laptops, rechargeable batteries, electric vehicles, telescopes and hockey sticks.
Other manufactured products include critical and strategic minerals in their composition, such as solar panels, wind turbines, lasers and aircraft engines.
Critical and strategic minerals can also be found in the health sector and are used to manufacture drugs, medical equipment (e.g., lithium and bismuth), dental devices, CT scanners, and cosmetics.
The government’s goal is for Québec to become a leader in the production, transformation and recycling of critical and strategic minerals (CSMs), in partnership with local and Indigenous communities.
The Québec Plan for the Development of Critical and Strategic Minerals 2020-2025 (PDF 7.65 Mb) outlines the actions planned to achieve this goal, which include:
- Exploring Québec’s CSM potential through mapping and data collection;
- Creating a research and development network that will unite all the stakeholders in the field;
- Financially supporting projects in exploration, transformation, recycling, artificial intelligence as well as research and development;
- Develop and consolidate transportation, energy and telecommunications networks throughout Québec’s territory;
- Recycling and reusing critical and strategic minerals;
- Promoting Québec internationally as a responsible partner for the supply of strategic and critical minerals;
- Raising the population’s awareness on the importance of strategic and critical minerals in their daily lives.
The Plan takes into account the high standards of environmental protection as well as occupational health and safety already in place. Numerous tools are available to businesses and local and Indigenous communities to promote the social acceptability of projects.
Critical and strategic mineral development will allow Québec to continue its energy and technological transitions as well as create quality jobs, while contributing to the development of a greener economy.
The circular economy: creating wealth differently
The circular economy is at the core of the Plan. The recovery and recycling of critical and strategic minerals will be encouraged. The goal is to reuse or recycle tailings or goods components by giving them a second life.
Here are two critical and strategic mineral recycling projects that have received financial support from the Gouvernement du Québec:
Public consultation process
The government has held a public consultation on the development of critical and strategic minerals in Québec. From November 19, 2019, to February 7, 2020, 6 meetings were held in the regions of Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Capitale-Nationale, Côte-Nord, Montréal, Nord-du-Québec and Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean. The purpose was to survey regional stakeholders and Indigenous communities on the orientations that the government should adopt. Overall, 140 participants from the municipal, industrial, mining and environmental sectors participated in this review. Social acceptability, mineral recycling, the circular economy and the contribution of partners were the central themes of numerous exchanges.
A summary of this work has been published. It presents the different points of view expressed not only during regional meetings, but also in online questionnaires and filed briefs.
See the feedback summary (PDF 211 Kb).
- Québec Plan for the Development (PDF 7.65 Mb)
- Plan summary (PDF 3.51 Mb)
- Fact sheet for the general public (PDF 3.89 Mb)
- Fact sheet for investors (PDF 3.83 Mb)
- Map – Critical and strategic minerals in Québec (PDF 2.80 Mb)
- Discussion paper (PDF 2.60 Mb)
- Slide presentation used during the regional meetings (PDF 2.07 Mb) (in French)