Quebec reveals $80 billion 'Plan Nord' to develop natural resources

With "Plan Nord," Canada's Quebec province sees energy and manufacturing potential in its vast holdings of natural resources.

Canada is waking up to its vast holdings of natural resources.

The Quebec province announced on Monday an ambitious 25-year plan to develop natural resources in its northern and Arctic regions, which have little in the way of population or infrastructure but contain significant amounts of minerals, wood and hydroelectric energy potential.

The plan sets aside $2.1 billion Canadian (approx. $2.2 billion USD) with instructions to establish an investment fund that will, with hope, reach $80 billion Canadian.

The proposed project, called "Plan Nord," includes strict regulations for industrial activity -- including outright bans in some places -- in what is otherwise an untouched natural area home to just 120,000 people. It involves all of Quebec’s territory above the 49th parallel, about 297 million acres.

Québec premier Jean Charest called it "the project of a generation."

Highlights about the project:

  • 3,500 megawatts of renewable energy: 3,000MW of hydroelectricity, 300MW of wind power; 200MW from underwater generators.
  • 11 new mining projects and more than $8.24 billion in private mining investment.
  • The network of protected areas will be completed by 2015 to encompass 12 percent of the territory that the Plan Nord covers. New provincial parks will be constructed.
  • Hydro-Québec will also contribute $10 million a year to fund social projects.
  • Facilitate the development of agricultural production, processing and distribution of food in order to offer local supplies. Develop a diversified, much sought-after bio-food industry (blueberries, cloudberries, northern marine species, etc.)
  • Build 840 new housing units will be built in Nunavik, including 300 public housing units, and renovate 482 by 2014.
  • Develop access and transportation and communications infrastructure.

Still, hurdles remain. The exploitation of prime North American natural resources could very well anger environmentalists, not to mention the area's native Canadian population.

If Canadian officials can walk this tightrope, they could very well give a shot in the arm to Quebec's sagging mining industry, as the area contains substantial deposits of lithium and rare earth minerals.

But officials can see the potential: Plan Nord will transform Canada into an even more formidable energy supplier for the continent, adding to existing development of Alberta's oil sands and established hydroelectric projects.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com